Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Lego Freakout

Somewhere in Sweden, toy designers exult.

Why? Because they know that all over the land kids are popping together Legos, making trains and tracks and construction vehicles and attack droids and all kinds of other things.

No exceptions here. Iain spent the last few days immersed in Legos.

We've finally reached the stage where our Legos require batteries. Next stop: robots.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Wedding Cake For KP and Laurie

We had a dinner planned with KP and Laurie last Friday night. Nothing especially fancy - just a glass of wine and some pot roast.

But then. A federal judge decided to act before the holiday began. He did. We needed, as a consequence, cake.

So cake. Plus an orange buttercream. Plus raspberry jam on top for color and tang. Plus some candy pearls I had in the cabinet.

I'm not much of a cake decorator, but it was festive. And we wanted so much to celebrate.

Saturday, December 21, 2013


Above, the scene in 2009. Bart and Tony married. Alina, Charles and I represented GSSM.  Iain drooled. Iain coveted the toys intended for Bart and Tony's nephew. Iain refused to nap. Iain screamed his little head off. Iain face-planted onto concrete. It was a party.

Iain, coveting toys not his own

Sunday (Sunday!!) the gents arrive for a visit. Sunday! We've laid on ten pounds of cookies, toffee, and chocolate (courtesy of my generous, sweet students), 6 inches of snow, and a significant quantity of whisky (Irish, Scotch, and Kentucky bourbon). We even have local beer (Squatter's winter special called "Chasing Tail" and decorated with a Golden Retriever).

Iain and Tony. I think Tony just told Iain about the Crystal Method.

Party 2.0. Starts Sunday.

Friday, December 20, 2013


A happy day in Utah. Congratulations to Kody and Laurie. 

ETA: The New York Times likes kissing. Or so one might assume from their photographic choices.

SNOW! Actually, it was kind of a mess. But: SNOW!

Yesterday. Steady snow all day long. The result? 4 or 5 inches above a nice, crunchy layer of ice. Joy.

And tonight/tomorrow? More snow! 3-6 inches, if you believe the Tribune.

In other news, Iain has decided to re-write The Grinch. Now, instead of the Who families singing after the Grinch steals their stuff, they "pew" him with their "Whoinator." Pew-ing is like shooting, but it makes a noise that sounds like "pew! pew!"

That's the report from hereabouts.

Sunday, December 15, 2013


At the end of summer I started work on a new quilt for Iain. He chose the fabric, I chose the pattern. By the start of school I'd pretty much finished the top. Remember Iain posing with the top? Such a ham.

And now, the whole thing. Done, washed, placed on bed for youthful enjoyment. Iain's comment? "Old quilts are much softer." Yes, son.

I told him not to worry. By the time he's in third grade this quilt will be just fine. Until then, cowboy up.

Note that in these photos you can see the backing - elephants. Because: elephants.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

No Good, part 2

Iain holds up a Lego mini-fig.

"Name this guy!" he demands.

"Otis," I say.

"Ummm...no, that wouldn't work. His name is Amazing Ouch Guy."

Well, right. Silly me.

Friday, December 06, 2013

The Worst

 Above, Iain's first note to me. I'm so proud! It's legible and spelled correctly. So, so proud.

Below, a note written the same night. He asked Charles  how to spell "enter" but I guess the signals crossed somehow.

In case you think this misanthropy comes and goes...not really. Last night he told me, "Mom, the only thing worse than an iPad with no juice is: YOU!"

Thursday, November 28, 2013


We had ham. But for Mother: cornish game hens. I roasted them with orange peels, zaatar, thyme and butter.

We also had the usual suspects: mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, dressing, green beans...and, of course, spanikopita. Because the Greeks know what's good. I'm not Greek, but I recognize genius when I see it.

Mmm...with one big fork for me. Me!


So I'm reading The Atlantic. There's an article about food insecurity. Looks good. Let's check that out.

La dee dah, interesting stuff. Oh, look: a map of food insecurity among children in the US. First reaction: happy that Utah does ok at helping children eat.

The author, though, points out the two states that seem worst off: Arizona and Missouri.

Wait. Missouri's dark. Why Missouri? Arkansas, on the other hand - that's pale. Is it possible that a major national magazine just mixed up Arkansas and Missouri? Maybe. And, you know, I notice one more thing. Arizona's darker than New Mexico.

IS IT POSSIBLE that The Atlantic mixed up *both* Arizona/New Mexico and Missouri/Arkansas?

Too much eggnog. That's my theory.

Sunday, November 24, 2013


I like to check the weather. Because, you know, snow. Or not, this week. But this morning...what's today's forecast?

Not too cold. That's good. Partly cloudy, sounds fine. Oh, and...


I think someone's been playing with the interwebs this morning. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013


 What happens when a little boy can't play Lego?

Friday, Iain tried to pry apart two Legos with his teeth. We strictly forbid putting Legos in your mouth. Never, ever. So Charles laid down the law: no Legos until Monday. Ouch!

Saturday, Iain suffered only minimally. He spent much of mid-day at a great birthday party. Then it was time to chill until his new (awesome) babysitter came over. Then cookie-making until bedtime.

But today....todaytodaytoday. All day to play...what? He improvised. And the result you see above.

At 3:30, he asked to watch TV. Ok, we said, if you clean your room. Fifteen minutes later, voila! And now he's watching some hideously violent thing about dinosaurs seeking water but finding - in a tar pit - only death. Death!

Saturday, November 16, 2013


We needed a babysitter tonight. One of my former students agreed to come.

She and Iain made chocolate chip cookies.


Don't we have a dinner party next weekend? What about Tuesday? Anything Tuesday?

[ETA: It's bad when you don't want to yawn because the dog smells SO BAD. That's bad, right?]

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

New York - The Met

We visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art. My mother especially loves the Egyptian wing, so we lingered there.

But after a while, mummies get a little dull. It's dull with a touch of maybe-it'll-rise-up-and-smite-me, but still dull. So I found a bit of stairway to sit on (no benches at the Met!). Someone left the worksheet you see above.

Whoever this kid was, he's a bright one. He noticed all the little details on whatever he observed. What does he see? "vegetables, bread, goat or beef, squash, ribs, leaks [sic], onions." What does he think? "[He] has beer inside the jug." What does he wonder? "If these people are gods or pharohs [sic]"

Pretty good stuff. Too bad he left it behind.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

New York - Woodlawn

Last weekend I flew to New York to speak at Woodlawn Cemetery. That's where Thomas Nast lies buried, alongside his wife Sarah (Sallie) Nast. Above, me with the main monument. The two graves are in the foreground.

Since Mother grew up in the Bronx, our hosts took a photo of the two of us, on "home ground."

We learned several interesting things at Woodlawn. For one thing, there are eight spots in the Nast plot but only Thomas and Sallie are there. Hmmm...

Also, if you look at the top of the main Nast monument, it's oddly pocked. We thought there must have been something there. The director of educational events at Woodlawn looked into it and YES, there was. It was a - are you ready for this? - Tiffany-designed silver vase. Naturally, someone popped into the cemetery and took it. Boo.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Things Not Yet Finished

 Iain's quilt is old. Old, as in made when I was still trying to figure out quilting without ever looking at a book or asking anyone. So it has lumps because I was all, "just roll out the batting stuff and then sew the edges. Meh! It'll be fine!" No.

I offered Iain the pick of my fabric bucket (a 2'x4' bucket) and he chose an interesting mix of batiks and children's fabric. I made some squares because what I've learned about quilting is: KISS.*

We drove down to Holladay to find edging and batting, and Iain liked this ombre polka dot. The back (unphotographed because that's how I roll - forgetfully) is a chain of orange, blue, and green elephants of varying sizes.

Is it done? Ha! I made the "sandwich" a couple of weeks ago. This weekend, I need to break out the sewing machine and get quilting. Once that's done, binding. And then, at last, we can retire the nasty, old, stained, disintegrating, lumpy quilt from long ago.

So, maybe in the new year. Maybe.

*Keep It Simple, Stupid

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween, Robot Style

Oh, hai. Here's Iain as a robot. He and Charles built the costume (same costume he wore for Halloween in July at summer camp) over the summer and then added a new set of electronic components last week.

Oh, and metallic arms. They added those, too. It turned out that carrying the candy basket (or, as Iain preferred to call it, "my handbag") while wearing the arms is...hard.

Folks said, "You're so cute!" and Iain replied, "It's very uncomfortable." Oh.

Better luck next year.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Learning About Math

Iain: "I've been here bajillion seconds. Is that a real thing?"
Me: "No. It's a made-up thing. Million, billion, and trillion are real math words, though."
Iain: "And 165."
Me: "Yes, that's real, too."

The end.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


"Moommmm? What if I was a penguin and you were a rock?"

"Mooommm? What if we grew a 50-foot banana?"

"Mooommm? What if I was a fish and you were a penguin?"

"Mooommm? What if I punched myself intheface!?" [we discourage this]

Netflix playing Handy Manny, conversation about the Tooth Fairy. Program stops for some technical reason. Iain mutters, "Whatever..."

"If I was a farmer, would you worry?"

"What about if I was a sailor?"

"What about if I built rockets?"

"How do you say 'no' in Spanish?"

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Kitchen in Full Swing

There's apple sauce (from apples grown on a tree in the backyard of two former students) in the slow cooker, ginger syrup reducing on the stove, and wild rice absorbing water in the rice cooker.

Tonight's menu:

Drinks: ginger lemon soda (for the preggies), ginger orange bourbon cocktails for the rest

Apps: pistachios, locally-produced bresaola, parmesan crisps

Mains: grilled flank steak, wild rice and kale gratin (from Smitten Awesomeness), roasted tomatoes with garlic, herbs and breadcrumbs, honey-mustard carrots, and asparagus. Nate is bringing bread.

Dessert: ice cream with salted caramel sauce, chocolate fudge, strawberries and almonds (it's like a buffet. I'm tired of cake. Please call a doctor.)

After lunch I'll slice the onions, chop the kale, measure out the bread crumbs and peel the carrots. Then a haircut. Then we start cooking for reals.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Solar System Animation

Iain and I really enjoyed this.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Bedtime Stories

So Iain knows I teach history. He understands this to mean that I am available - at any time - to tell him a story about something gruesome.

His favorites include the Battle of Monongahela, the Battle of the Bulge, Richard the Lionhearted, and slavery (the general outline of North American slavery as a lived experience).

Tonight I told him about Henry VIII and his first 3 wives. I left out the beheading. He wasn't particularly interested and kept asking whether I'd tell him about the Bulge again. No. This is the story. The only part he really liked was Henry getting poked with a lance and falling from his horse in a dead faint for an hour. That was ok. He was also mildly interested in the symptoms of congenital syphilis.

Finally, I explained that if he'd make do with this story tonight I would tell him about the Spanish Armada tomorrow night. "Elizabeth saved England from the greatest threat she faced prior to the Nazis!" I said.

"What are the Nazis?"

"The Battle of the Bulge is the Nazis."

"Oh. So Armada tomorrow night, Nazis Tuesday?"

Yes, kid. Conflict and tension every night at bedtime. You bet. Because there's nothing else in history, apparently. He'd fit right into a history department, circa 1952.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Yesterday, Salt Lake City

Yep. Those are two Confederate flags waving off the back of a Jeep Cherokee. They had the "Don't Tread on Me" snake on them, too.

I guess the Flag Code doesn't apply to the Stars and Bars. It was raining steadily.

Friday, August 16, 2013


So the Daily Mail ran the story above this morning. The headline is so sweet, isn't it? Soldier writes home to his brother from the front, family unity, love. History = uplifting.

But what's that P.S. say?

"There is plenty of Donna's here the price is a tin of Bully and there is a does [sic] of V.D. generated with each." 

Wha??? Google says "Donna" is slang for Dona, or woman. I think we know what V.D. is.

So history, it turns out, is complicated. Uplifting and lovely at times, but always totally human.

I'd love to know whether the DM published the bottom bit on purpose. There's no reference to it in the article.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Twin Lakes

Sunday hiking. Our new family tradition. This time, we started in a slightly different place (the parking lot by Silver Lake rather than the parking lot at the base of the main chair lift, both at Brighton Ski Resort.).

The trail is relatively steep, with lots of areas where you step from rock to rock. But it's shaded by a lovely canopy of trees and this time of year the aspens quake madly in the wind. So everything has a dynamic feeling, never quite still. The chipmunks and ground squirrels are out in force, too. They need to fatten up for winter and store enough for spring. Based on the rate of acorn-fall, I think the squirrels aren't waiting for nature - they're up in the trees chucking down their dinner.

As usual, Iain hiked holding Charles' hand. On the way down, this is for safety. On the way up, it's encouragement.

Silver Lake, from about a quarter of the way up the trail. Go another 3/4 of a mile and you're at a reservoir called Twin Lake (? I think - it's not entirely clear to me which lake is which up there, and there are a bunch). Pretty, with a wide beach and plenty of room to picnic, it rewarded us for our sweat. The way down wasn't nearly as terrifyingly-horrifying-steep-kill-me-now as I expected, either.

Monday, August 05, 2013


Strolling up along the ski runs at Brighton...

 Reaching the rocky bits near the top of the trail...

Lake Mary, a pretty alpine lake with rocky islands and plenty of spots to sit and feel the sweat cool on your back. When you start to shiver, it's time to go.

We hiked this trail Saturday a week ago and again this Sunday. The second time we took Iain's advice and brought muffins and strawberries for a snack.

Not that a promised snack can stop Iain's complaints. He said his legs were so, so tired. "How tired can they be? They're only 5 years old! Should last another 80 years!" We practice Not-Very-Sympathetic Parenting. It's also Not-Very-Effective.

But despite his terrible fatigue, Iain managed to walk up to the lake. We popped by Dog Lake on the way down, too.

Friday, August 02, 2013


Weather, climate, divine moodiness... I dunno. Gardens are weird. Two years ago we enjoyed a ton of lettuce. This year they all bolted before we enjoyed any tasty salads. Last year, the tomatoes were OUT OF CONTROL. Really.

This year, the tomatoes grow only enough to indicate to me that they can grow. Any more than that would be a waste of energy. Also, they disdain my hopes. It's like a vegetal finger salute. "Lady, I could grow, but I ain't. So there."

Other plants, though. Huh. I've never before grown bush beans but last year's experiment with sugar snap peas made me angry. They just never set very many pods, relative to the space they consumed. So this year I replaced my edible-pod efforts with plain old green beans. Bush beans, suited for the heat of summer. They're doing great! First of all, they're perfect for Square Foot Gardening. The seeds are large enough that you can actually plant just one seed per hole and space them appropriately. So I've got about 20 little plants making me green beans.

Also a success: cucumbers. I bought one or two small plants from a local nursery and so far we've enjoyed 3 cukes plus there are many more to come.

So here's to the total unpredictability of nature. You never know what you'll get.

Monday, July 29, 2013


Remember this guy? Look at those round cheeks. Chomp!

These days, slimmer cheeks. Oh, and a ton of face paint. Please note the fact that he matched his T-shirt and his face paint.  Because style.

What he really looks like. All. The. Time.