Tuesday, August 31, 2010


This weekend, we have 3 eating adventures.

1. Saturday morning/lunch: four adults, five children (ranging from 12 years old to Iain). We will probably go over to the park, but then I need to give us all lunch and...I dunno. A salad, yes. Fruit, yes. Maybe pre-baked chicken breasts and buns? I'm trying to imagine all the food grumps 5 kids could offer and it's terrifying.

2. Saturday afternoon at Red Butte Gardens. Four adults, three kids, from seven years old down to Iain. In fact, the middle kid is also Ian, and he's 3.5. I think this should be snackage, plus cool drinks. We're meeting at 4:30, so that's a weird time for food.

3. Sunday brunch at the park. Iain, me, Luca-from-Iain's-school, and Luca's Mom. Plus an unknown number of people from Iain's class and their toddlers. Last week it was bagels and orange juice. This week....?? I found a bakery that makes the best croissants I've had since LA (and that includes France. Sorry, France.), but they're 'spensive. Very 'spensive. So that's out. Also, the last thing I want to do is drive all over the place to get to a park across the street.


Let me say this to start: traditional picnic foods tend to be a bust with us. We're not going to eat/make/smile at potato salad, for example. Or pasta salad. As a kid, I used to have a mental loop that went like this: "What if you sneezed and instead of...stuff...out came a piece of elbow macaroni? So doesn't that mean that elbow macaroni is...yucky? Yes. Yes, it does." I cannot explain this certainty, but pasta salad is out, and that's that.

So we're left with questions like: is crusty bread and cheese a cop out? If the chicken breasts are cold, would that make the sandwich gross? Will kids eat a big green salad with sliced almonds and goat cheese (ok, that's obvious: probably not.).

Did I mention the allergies and the fact that at least some of the people on some of these outings are kosher?

Maybe I should just get some jumbo Snickers bars and be done with it. What do you think?

Monday, August 30, 2010


Whew! What a day. Meetings, meetings, and then more meetings.

First, I had a little flashback. Remember this? On the first day of my fellowship at the Rothermere American Institute, Charles and I fairly swam into town.

We arrived soaked - SOAKED. Wet to the thigh, and dripping like a dog. The receptionist swept me up and down with a vague/disapproving look (experience would prove that she looked vague a lot) and suggested I might like to "clean up" and "dry off" before she took me into the library. Uh, yeah. Sorry.

Today was a little like that. I met KP so we could walk/gossip to work, but the moment we met on the corner of 17th and 9th, the skies opened. She had a rain jacket and I had an umbrella so we both got wet. And - AGAIN - I arrived for a Monday of work dripping from my knees and elbows (wet sweater...ewwww...)

But from there things looked up. My day was:
  • Meeting, 9-12
  • Meeting, 12-1
  • Meeting, 1:30-2
  • Meeting, 2:30-3:30
  • Picnic! 5-7
That might not look so good to you, but let me say this: every meeting went as planned. No meeting ran over. At no meeting was a PowerPoint slide read aloud. At two of those meetings delicious niblets appeared for my delectation (and coffee!). So, really, it was a good day.

And tomorrow promises even better. No meetings, good weather (70! Sunny! I love it here!), and a steady tick tock tick tock to Wednesday morning's Convocation.

My photocopies are photocopied. My chairs are arranged. My dry-erase pens are lined up and my desk is a mess.

I'm ready!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

This Is It

School starts Wednesday.

Tomorrow, I have a day of meetings, Tuesday mostly I can just work on class, then...


Wish me luck. Or, at least, something short of abject failure.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Two Great Books

Above, the book I'm currently enjoying on my new iPod (I loves presents!). It's long, y'all. Really, really long. The book as an audio experience will last 28 hours.

BUT, all the material that's tangential (related, but not totally essential), consists of fascinating, carefully and thoughtfully synthesized descriptions of things you would otherwise really never know: a detailed history of Gibbons v. Ogden, the story of early steam-driven ferries in New York harbor...and I'm only in the very tippy top of part 2 (out of 5!).

Like TJ Stiles's wonderful biography of Jesse James (read it), this book has both penetrating insight and a loose, conversational voice. He's trained academically but writes with the kind of wit and fluidity more often encountered in journalism.

And second, but perhaps even better (much, much shorter) is this book by science journalist Deborah Blum. It's the story of the rise of forensic science in New York. Each chapter examines a different poison (cyanide, mercury, carbon monoxide...), explaining the ways that these poisons work, how they have led to deaths and murders, and how two men working at Bellevue Hospital managed to create modern medical examination out of will and brains.

But the best part is that the stories about murder and accidental death include within them stories about political corruption, Prohibition, scientific innovation (in forensic science but also gasoline production and other advances in chemistry and technology), immigration, gender, and class. It's all there, built into murder mysteries and courtroom dramas.

Both images are links, in case you're short of reading materials. Enjoy...

Friday, August 27, 2010


Ah, the early morning. So cool, so quiet.

I leave for school in a moment, but before I go here's an update on yesterday:

Iain had a doctor's appointment. They were supposed to do a lead test (b/c our house is old) and give him a flu shot. There were no flu vaccines ready, so they gave him a different booster and took the blood for the lead test (it's a finger stick). Iain hated it.

As a baby, he didn't react too badly to shots. He cried, but only for a minute and he didn't hold a grudge.

Not so much yesterday. He was angry. He wailed. He screamed. He snarled and twisted and surprised the nurse with his ability to get away. Yes, I was holding him. So was she. He's a big kid, y'all.

We waited for the lead test. And waited. And waited. I heard someone in the hall say, "I'm just having one of those days." And then the doctor came in.

The nurse accidentally stuck herself with Iain's needle. She's pregnant. So, though no one thinks of Iain as (in the doctor's words) "a 45-year-old drug user," we all had to go down to the lab.

For a blood test. Iain and the nurse both had to undergo testing for HepA, HebB, and HIV.

Can I tell you how Iain reacted to an IV blood-taking experience? Not well. To her credit, the lab tech got it done like greased lightning, and the folks waiting insisted that we go first. Bravo to them. But poor Iain was not happy.

In the end, he got 2 hours of TV and ice cream for dinner (with frozen organic blueberries on it, because Mommy has some standards).

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

First Day (of Meetings)

Can I just point something out about this fountain? It's a snake. That's right, a snake. Look at the fangs. Look at the forked tongue. Look at the gaping maw. And remember that other fountain, where Iain played? The water jets out of coiled rattlers. And the child-sized living tunnels that branch off of this fountain? They're the body of the snake!! And who's a parseltongue? That's right: Voldemort. Think about it.

What a busy day. I headed out to school at 7:30 (a 45-minute walk to the suave sounds of...Ton Loc. That's right, a little Funky Cold Medina) for meetings with my newly-hired cohort. We met all morning, then had a tasty lunch up the hill a bit (and by "a bit" I mean far enough that I could see the top of the State House, looking like a little dial on the radio of Salt Lake City), then one more meeting where all the computer secrets were revealed! (cue dramatic music)

Meanwhile, Iain and The Dad tripped off to the zoo. And get this: THEY FINALLY GOT TO RIDE THE TRAIN. No, really. The Dad reports that sitting right in front is not ideal. Exhaust, apparently.

But they got to see buffalo! So that's a win.

In the afternoon, I hiked back up the hill (94 degrees! OMG! ZOMG!) and collapsed onto the sofa with a cranberry juice. Tomorrow, I get to attend more meetings, and on Friday...more meetings! I'm so psyched about the new year that I couldn't sleep last night until 3am. Let's hope all that walking tired me out for tonight.

But hang on to your hats, people. In exactly one week, the new year will begin for both Mommy and Iain. And there's just no telling what's going to happen, then.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Last Night

So I hear Iain talking around 9pm. I go in to give him one last smooch before sleepy time.

He says, "Mommy, go out gate."
"Yes, I'll go in a second. I just came in to tell you that I love you."
At that, he rolls over, wraps his little arms around me, and says, "I love me."

"I love you, too, honey."

Please feel free to take a moment to either:

A) Bawl.


B) Go tell everyone you know, "I love me."

Monday, August 23, 2010

Day of Delicious

One last set of photos to prove (definitively!) the awesomeness of the Children's Garden at Red Butte:
Yep, that's a waterfall. With a pond. With goldfish and stepping stones.

But what about Mom? you ask. And rightly so. Yes, there's a spot for Mom. She can sit and watch the fun in her shady splendor:

Seriously - could anything be more wonderful? No. It's good we've cleared that up.

My doors are open, people. Come ahead and I'll ply you with crusty bread and apricots poached in vanilla syrup. Plopped onto some Greek yogurt...well...this is a family blog. I don't want to get too explicit.

[Call me! I'll tell all.]

Odor or Aroma?

I'm not saying that you wish you were here. But you do.


Because our house is redolent of freshly-baked bread and pulled pork. Chew on that. Mentally.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Busy Busy Busy

Iain and Charles at an early 20th century stone house on the grounds of Red Butte Gardens. It's a ruin, but kind of neat to walk up to. At this point, we'd hiked about 3 miles, though, so it was the last stop before we headed to the manicured parts of the garden.

This morning we joined our friend GS and her family and assorted guests at the park for brunch. Bagels, donuts, coffee and juice. Plus a sandbox, ten million trucks, and a gaggle of little kids. Iain wasn't sure what to make of it all.

Curiously, no one had much luck persuading the kids to eat donuts. At some point, after we'd been there nearly 2 hours, one of the older boys (maybe 7 or 8) walked over to his mother and said, "This bagel's really good!" "Yes, son, that's because it's a donut." After that, Iain tried one and pronounced it "cake."

In other culinary news, our kitchen is currently very busy. I got some kind of itch tonight and made a batch of no-knead bread (the kind that you mix, then stick in the fridge for a few days, then bake off as you like) and a batch of apricot jam (recipe from here). The jam is an act of mercy and also of conservation. My neighbor's apricot tree is LOADED with gorgeous apricots, see? And there have been terrible thunderstorms this week. Every time, her driveway is paved with fallen 'cots, all lost to my tummy. So she urged me to come over and get some. I did, and now I have pounds and pounds of apricots sitting on the counter. Jam, obvy.

And while the jam won't be complete until tomorrow, I can already attest that halved apricots, warmed with sugar, lemon juice and vanilla beans, taste goooood.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

What Daddy Does When Iain Gets a Scrape

First, guess what we saw on our walk last night? Yup. A snake. We think it's a gopher snake, but it's hard to tell when you don't go pick it up, look closely at it, study herpetology for 20 years, and grow up here. But we think it's a gopher snake. It's hiney was in that hole on the left, but it really doesn't look like a rattler. Still, it was a snake. We walked in the other direction.

Back to the title. Iain fell on the porch the day before yesterday, and he got a pretty good scrape on his left knee. I gave him cuddles, band-aids, neosporin, and ice cream. Charles gave him this:

Take one guess which one got him to stop crying? Here's a hint: it wasn't the ice cream.

Dads know things. Like how to make 2-story bridges.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Bring Up those Oxygen Levels, Please

A beautiful little shrub from New Zealand. I settled it next to some spiky rosemary

I love houseplants. Love them. They're so pretty. And so small. And you get to use pottery, which I love, too. But our houses (recently) have been kind of dark. Houseplants don't like dark. They want to live, Live, LIVE! Or, at least, to have some sunshine.

String of pearls, my favorite succulent ever, plus some horsetail grass and a couple of reddish succulents for color. In a pot made by the potter Jay Jacobs, whose move away from LA gave me the chance to snap up a ton of gorgeous pots for practically the cost of chewing gum.

Now think about my classroom. My classroom with its 14-foot-high ceilings. And its western exposure. And the bank of windows along the western wall, each one about 8 feet tall. Oui. Sunshine. Naturally, I toodled over to Cactus and Tropicals to scratch my succulent itch.

A rubber plant, plus something wonderful called Old Man's Bones. Oh, and some jade in the background.

I already had plant stands, so once the loot was plopped into its new home, I could just pop them up on the stands and pour in some libations. Water, anyone? Anyone?

I forget what this one is called, but it's interesting. And I tossed the extra bits of succulent on top so they'll grow. One of the best things about succulents is that if some parts fall off (and they will) you just toss them onto dirt and they grow roots and resume their lives. Just now, watching a documentary on architecture, I saw Julius Shulman pluck off a branch of jade and throw it up the hill. Because he knows - it's going to grow!

Maybe I went a little overboard. I eventually made 4 large pots, plus two small ones. Plus 2 small pots at home that hold the detritus, and that will eventually make me more plants. But hey - it's a huge room! What seemed like a ton of pots in my house looked like a dot once in my room:

Two tiny plants on my desk (above) plus three visible on plant stands and on the filing cabinet (below).

As I moved them into the building, the maintenance guys just laughed. First, because they never see me without a ton of crap I'm schlepping, and second because (as they put it) "You getting some more oxygen in there?"

You must be Blade Runner.


This is best viewed in high definition, so I'm just posting the link. Very cool.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


'Scuse Me

Just now: "'Scuse me, are you old?" from Iain to Charles.

He replied, "Yes, son. We're old."


1. I have dried blood on my shirt. It's Iain's. He fell on the porch and scraped his knee. I put neosporin on it, bandaged it, and tried to be a comfort, but what he really wanted was to be cuddled. So my shirt bears some war wounds.

2. Iain had this for lunch: M&Ms, nothing, grapes, ice cream, ramen noodles. In that order. It took about 1.5 hours to get him to eat. Charles gave him some children's Motrin at 1 o'clock and that helped, at last.

3. It's raining like the end of the world. Just after Iain tripped on the porch, the skies opened up and fell. Across the street, there's a large tree down, and in our house it's all crying, all the time.

4. Iain is in his pack-n-play, not napping, alternating crying with loud statements from Sesame Street ("Mommy! This is your life!").

Wah. I think I need some chocolate ice cream noodles myself.

Brooks = Superman?

I love David Brooks. Looks like I'm not alone.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Red Butte Gardens, Part 3

Lest you get the impression that Red Butte is nothing but a garden for children, check out the meditation/duck/fish/pond-y garden. When you walk up, there's an enormous fish sculpture to point the way (visible above if you blow up the shot and look between Charles and KP).

The pond behind the screen of trees contains ducks (very forward ducks) and a posse of attitudinal koi. Iain was fascinated, of course, especially because something as simple as a duck launching off the dock, flying 5 feet, then settling onto the water seems magical when you've never seen anything like that before.

If one is feeling tired, or meditative, or a bit of sunstroke, the Japanese-style pavilion and benches await. Though this is intended for anyone, it had an appreciative audience of children, probably drawn to the quiet, the shade, and the sound of splashing and quacking.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Call of Cthulhu in Under 2 Minutes

I think book reports would all be more interesting if they were animated. And funny.

Weeping Blue Atlas Cedar

You know we're planning the garden. Our back (side) yard is basically an L-shaped blank slate. There are a few things we already know: we want to incorporate elements of Japanese gardens; we want to use bamboo; and we want this tree.

It's a Weeping Blue Atlas Cedar, and it's fantastic. In our neighborhood, you can see them big and small, trained to hang sideways and trained to look like the demonic finger of the Dark Lord. But Red Butte Gardens offers 2 examples that take the cake.

Above, a specimen that dribbles its branches and spines here, there, and everywhere. It occupies a space probably about 20 feet in diameter. Below, the same kind of tree, this time trained to creep over the welcoming arch. Note the demonic finger bit on the left. I love this tree.

And that arch? Oh, it's the entrance to Iain's new favorite place, where the fountains invite little people to take off their shoes, roll up their trousers, and dip their liberated toes in chilly water.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Fountain at Red Butte Garden

In the garden for kids, there are 3 water features. They're planned as a trio, strung together like pearls. As you enter the garden, you walk over a bridge, looking down on a fountain and a waterfall. But this little gem hides in the foliage, and you only really see it when you enter the garden and walk around a bend.

Iain loved the huge wave of water, and only later we realized he was also enjoying the fact that the smaller rivulets (see first picture) were pouring water directly onto his trousers. He was soaking wet and had to change his pants before we left.

The top of the fountain is a living carpet of petunias and bougainvillea. It's gorgeous.

It's getting cooler here, but even so the temps are high and the sun is hot. After about 2 hours in that sun, mostly tromping up narrow, dusty paths, we were all pretty sweaty. And since Iain - for the first time ever - did a lot of hiking himself, he was as hot as the rest. Dipping his hands in the fountain helped (as, of course, did water-saturated denim on his hiney).

More Red Butte to come. It's a magical place, and one I'll be taking all visitors to see from now on.

Did I Mention the Fountains? The Waterfall?

Wet toddler toes. Yurm.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Red Butte Gardens, Part 1

This morning we joined KP for a wee walk at Red Butte Gardens. It was so amazing that we had to join up before we left. So stay tuned for more photos, especially of the garden for children.

Above, Iain and The Mom taking a short break near the top of the trail. Red Butte has gardens like any such place (think, the Huntington in San Marino), but it also has a little butte you can climb. So there are about 4 miles of easy trails winding up through the brush. The only iffy part was the way KP and I kept jumping anytime we heard a rustle. Rattlesnakes!

That's the view from the top of the trail. No, really. Too bad it's soooo ugly here, no?

And here are Iain and The Dad, preparing for the downhill portion of the walk. We spent maybe an hour and a half hiking, then descended into fantasyland. More on that, later.

Our weekend has been busybusybusy. Yesterday we spent the morning at IKEA, where we acquired many useful things. Not least (and the excuse for going) was a set of cheap-o wine glasses. KP started a wine club, see? And I'm hosting next time, see? And last time, certain ladies got kind of wild and threw bottles and broke glasses. So we're prepared, now. We have glasses that can be broken without harm to anyone's heart.

I also finally replaced my tart pan. Yay! I can be all tarty again.

In the evening, we passed 2 pleasurable hours walking to the park, pushing Iain on the swing ("Higher! Higher!! HIGHER!!!"), then walking down through the neighborhood. As always, we solved the problems of the world while we walked. Specifically? Oh, we decided to design and landscape the backyard ourselves. What? You don't consider that a pressing global issue? I assure you, it is.

Today, it was Red Butte, then lunch at the Dodo (I lurv you, Dodo!), then nap, and lots of gardening for me. Whew! I need a break, and a cocktail, and maybe a romantic comedy.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Welcome Wagon

Above, and below, the first rest stop inside Utah (coming from Evanston, Wyoming). Nice welcome, huh? They have picnic pavilions, a little hike up to the scenic overlook (complete with benches), doggie areas and snacks. It's awesome. Welcome home to Utah, y'all.

In other news, when I offered Iain his new truck jammies tonight, he replied, "I love it!"

Our son has become a Hollywood agent.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Financial Responsibility

So we've been shopping for a bike. I intend to ride to school sometimes, walk to school sometimes, maybe ride the bus when the weather is bad...and occasionally take the car. Mostly, I want to walk.

But my bike is old. I bought it in DC when we moved up to the NW quadrant. So if you're keeping track (and I hope you are), that's 1997. I last used it sometime in 2000, maybe. Maybe 1998. Anyway, it needs work.

We knew there was a local place that could tune up bikes, but I think we both felt a little bashful about the state of the two bicycles we own (Charles's bike is even older, maybe 20 years old, and just as decrepit). So we shopped around, figuring that maybe we'd buy new and donate our bikes to the SLC bike collective.

REI offered a few bikes on clearance for $350 or so. A local shop staffed with the sweetest young men had a great little bike for $600. Scruffier, but just as friendly, another shop had bikes on sale ranging from $300 to $400, but I'd need to pay extra for fenders. I need fenders.

Finally, Charles decided to drive down to the bike fixer and just see what it would cost to fix them up. "Welllll..." the lady said, "You'll need new cables and those are, like, $5 each." Yeah? Total? $100.

No, really.

So we're having our bikes rehabbed. And she's not sure if they'll be done tomorrow or Tuesday, because she closes Sunday and Monday. To recap: within 4 days (max), the bikes will be operable, for practically nothing, in bike terms.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Rock Climbing, Lesson One

Does this look like fun? Apparently, in Colorado they start their kids early on rock climbing. This was a play spot in the park. Iain was all, "Whatcha doin', Dad?"

So Charles offered a free lesson. First, you climb up on the rock, see...

Yes, with your feet, son.

Then you pull with your hands and climb with your toes and make your way to the top, where...

Granddad awaits! Three generations of Charles's family, all in one spot:

In other news, today Iain awoke from his nap by flinging out his arms and saying: "LADIES AND GENTLEMEN! AND MONSTERS! AND ALLIGATORS!" The first two bits are from Sesame Street, but the last is pure Iain.

He's also taken to mimicking any minor thing we say often. So, for instance, "How about some lunch? Oh, OF COURSE!" Then he'll repeat "Of course!" about five times.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Playing at the Park with Nana

On our last morning with Nana and Granddad, Iain enjoyed a little park time (to compensate for 5 hours in the car, though he didn't know it). Nana and I noticed (a little too late) that Iain had his sun hat on backward:

As always, the tunnel sang to Iain like the siren it is:

He loves tunnels. Loves them.

Today's Cutey-ism is this: we're in the car, driving over to REI so a bike salesperson can be weird and rude to us, when we hear from the back seat, "Sesame Street. By the Childrens Television Workshop."

So is that copyright acknowledgment (his father's child) or a citation to the source (his mother's child)?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Oh, the Weather

Am I boring on this subject? Am I? I don't care. To have highs in the mid-80s, with lows at night in the 50s, IN AUGUST, I just...can't...get...over...it.

Even an hour of picking up rotten apricots (fallen from my neighbor's tree into her driveway) can't take the shine off this beautiful weather.


Iain is waking up from his nap. He's sitting in the pack-n-play saying, "C'mon clowns! [clouds] Snow! Please snow! C'mon clowns!"

Monday, August 09, 2010


We saw lots of windmills in Wyoming. Local power is a good thing, and I think they look cool, too.

Not quite as green as the windmills in the cartoon, but we're getting there.

"I Don't Care."

So we walk up to the park. When we get there, a gaggle of giggling girls is on its way out, leaving one little boy and his dad.

The dad's sitting on the bench, totally not playing. He gets out the phone and makes a call. He's not smiling, and frankly he's a little off-putting. His little boy is about 5, rambling around the playground looking lonely and bored.

Naturally, we're a soft target. Before you know it, Little Boy has Iain by the hand and they're climbing up the slide together. He's talking a mile a minute, explaining to Iain that he's 5 and so he can go down the pole but Iain's too little.

Anyway, later on, he's stuck on us like velcro. It's half cute, half weird.

I'm pushing Iain on the swing, and Little Boy is talking about a game he likes to play in the pool. He talking and talking and talking and at some point Charles and I realize that Iain - on the swing - is saying, "I don't care." "I don't care." "I don't care."

Time to go.

Sending the Right Message

"No, no. This is all wrong." [Takes off plaque, turns it around, and replaces it]

"Much better. We can't just 'welcome' anyone. For everyone but adorable grandchildren, the correct message is 'Go Away!'"

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Oh, Really? You're Kidding!

MOOSE! Is a reclining moose as impressive as a standing moose? I dunno. But I think it's cool anyway. And below, a porcupine going for a walk. Have you guessed yet that these are the pictures from the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo?

Iain enjoyed the 4-wheelers, and with his hat he really looks like the heir of Crocodile Dundee.

Meanwhile, he continues to pick up new phrases. Just now he said, "Oh, really? You're kidding?!" when asked about something.

But who can blame him? New experiences are coming faster and faster. Yesterday he stopped at the Little America rest stop on I-80 and enjoyed his very first soft-serve cone. He learned to stick out his tongue and let one of The Staff swirl the cone. He also learned that soft-serve comes in double flavors, so one need not choose between chocolate and "manila."

More photos of Iain at Little America, Iain at a rest stop on the border, Iain with Grandad's grumpy bear, Iain Iain Iain coming soon. We're spending today enjoying the novel sensation of being at home, not hot, and with practically nothing to do.

So far, that pleasurable feeling has prompted waffle-making, some rearranging of decorative accents, a thorough scrubbing of the shower door, and a coffee date with KP. See how we're wallowing in Being Home?