Retro Acres is Up for Grabs

You’re looking for new digs on Salt Lake’s East bench, right?  Don’t worry, we’re outside of the neighbor-vs.-neighbor would-be historic district, which I simply call the “Disputed Zone.”  So you can tear the whole thing down and build your mini-mansion in style!


Retro Acres is officially for sale.  Future buyer, I hope you appreciate the levels of deep cleaning I had to do for the open house we had a week and a half ago.

Let’s just say that I’m not the most dedicated housekeeper.

Let’s just say that my decorating style could charitably be described as “casual.”

Let’s just say that since the six-week deep clean-a-thon, the first thing most people say when entering the house is “Whoa.”

And I somehow didn’t take pictures of my own perfectly clean bedroom and master bathroom?!?

Jeffrey didn’t think it was right that all the house-for-sale pictures I took had no people, so he sneaked the camera away, and did some sample shots with Eleanor as a model.

Yeah, the one on the bathroom shows off the timeless “paper on the floor” school of interior design.

I’m really, really going to miss this house.  Setting aside the 50+ decades of Grandma memories (she lived on her own in the house until she was 99) and the fact that this is where Brian officially proposed marriage to me, this is what’s incredible about this house:

3300 square feet, 4 bedrooms, 2 3/4 bath

A lot that catches the curve of the street, so we have an enormous backyard and front yard — big enough for multiple families to pitch tents for backyard campouts.

Three living rooms.  We’ve never had an official purpose for the one in the basement.  I call it the Place Where Random Furniture Goes to Die.

But what’s really killer is the location.

Walking distance to the elementary school, the preschool, the library (the LIBRARY!), the grocery store, the park, and a funky collection of cute restaurants, gift boutiques, etc.

5-minute drive away from the zoo, This is the Place Heritage Park, Red Butte Gardens, the art-house movie theater, the best gelato place in town, the Natural History Museum of Utah . . . and BRIAN’S JOB.  He could WALK to work whenever the need arose.

Don’t blink. You will NEVER see the boys’ room look this clean again.

10-minute drive away from the University of Utah (which included Tanner Dance, where Eleanor and William took classes), the Utah Museum of Art, various attending university-related amenities, and The King’s English (the only decent indie bookstore in town).

By luck, circumstance, and the seemingly boundless generosity of my in-laws, we managed to land ourselves in an incredible house in one of the most coveted neighborhoods in Salt Lake.  It’s been really, really hard to give this up.  I’m getting mopey just writing this post; in fact, it’s the reason I’ve been avoiding blogging for the past several weeks.  This is healthy, writing about something you hate, right?

When I found out that Brian’s job offer at the University of Utah fell through (oh, yes.  They named a salary figure.  We thought it was a done deal) I spent multiple occasions sobbing for 2+ hours.  Like, wailing-style sobbing.  Looking for a new house wound me up so tight that I developed insomnia . . . which lead to more wailing.

That was all back in March, and life goes on.  Brian and I spend time making lists of What We Won’t Miss About Utah, and that helps.  You know what?  It’s going to be okay.  Losing Retro Acres is tough.

But I’m tougher.

The News That Isn’t News: Seattle

Just in case you’re one of the few people who haven’t heard the news straight from myself (or in caterwauling updates on Facebook): we are moving to Seattle this summer.

I’ve been reluctant to blog about it, mainly because writing it gives it something of a permanent status that I wasn’t ready to admit to.  But I’m over that now.  Mainly because we’ve found a place to live.  The official closing is tomorrow, so I guess there’s no more denying our future.

May I introduce you to Shoreline House?

Please refrain from pointing out the oddity of purchasing a New England Colonial-style house in the Pacific Northwest.  The point is: I have totally fallen in love with this place, and criticizing it just gets my dander up.

And if there’s anything you don’t want to hear about going up, it’s a dander.

(Possibly also mortgage rates.)

We googled the sellers as soon as we found out who they were: why were they selling?  Turns out the husband is a Presbyterian minister who got transferred to a church in California.  He and his wife also had four kids, which explains why the house is so kid-friendly: hooks and shelves in all the closets, hooks on a mudroom nook in the kitchen (I guess hooks are at a premium when 60% of your family can’t operate a clotheshanger), a giant playfort and tree swings in the backyard, and best of all: eight bedrooms, four bathrooms.

Yeah, eight.  The house was listed at six bedrooms, but the sellers were worried that eight would scare buyers away.  One of the bedrooms has been converted into an office (with a set of double French doors instead of a regular door), so I guess it’s really seven bedrooms.  But still!  SEVEN!

The funny thing is that I was so exhausted when I first toured the house (owing to stress-induced insomnia, etc.) that I didn’t even see the pink and purple rooms.  I left the house thinking that there were only six bedrooms.  It was only through comparing my snapshots with the ones on the realty website that we realized there were more.

Each of our kids can have their own room, and there will still be two left over for play, crafts, and best of all, guests.

There’s actually one more bedroom like the one shown just above, but I don’t have a picture of it.  The image on the real estate site shows it with a giant stuffed toy moose on a bed, and William keeps talking about how he wants to play with it when he arrives.  We’ve given him a smaller toy moose to make up for it.

William also says he still wants to share a room with Jeffrey, and Brian and I are all about encouraging that impulse (if there’s anyone who could benefit from the socializing effects of a roommate, it’s Jeffrey) so there may be even more space to play around with.

Of course, there are downsides to this house.  It isn’t in the city (we were priced out of Seattle proper), it has a very long private drive that we share with three other homes (kind of a hike to the mailbox) and there’s some weirdness going on with the heating system (only half of the upstairs rooms get heat, so we’ll have to fix that).

The addition of walk in closets lead to the creation of this odd little nook of a room in the master bedroom:

(I do admire the seller’s choice in paint color.)

(How will fit a piano and an organ into this room?  Stay tuned . . .)

(See that?  Gas range!  Gas range!)

But I am well pleased with what we’ve found.  Best of all: there’s room for guests.  SO: plan your cheap vacation to Seattle now!  We’re only a 20 minute drive from downtown, and a 5-minute drive from the beach.

You know you wanna visit.

She Done Turned One

Katie’s first trip around the sun was celebrated with chicken enchiladas, cake from Granite Bakery, and lots of family.  The funny thing is, nobody photographed anybody but Kate.

She cheered when everyone sang to her,

found the icing flowers fascinating,

and perfected the double-fisted cake-grab.

Presents are still kind of a mystery, but with assistance, she found cute clothes and fun toys.

This is a kind of building block called “Wedgits,” from Brian’s mom.  I gave her a toy smartphone, which lights up and plays music when you press the “apps.”  I only mention this because I have a daft fantasy that my blog will be read by some archaeologist 100 years from now, and this mention of toy smartphones will come across as quaint and charming.

My favorite moment of the evening was how she clapped, cheered, and crowed with the whole family surrounding her — and then how she got a little bashful when we all sang “Happy Birthday.”  She couldn’t have cared less about the cake just then.  Thank goodness big brother William was there to extinguish the candle.

In fact, why not watch a snippet for yourself?

Electric Fug

Today is the day Brian turns 35 years old.

35 is the Ugly Lamp Birthday.  What, you didn’t know?

To celebrate, I hosted an Ugly Lamp competition, and friends and family submitted various unsightly entries.  Lamps could be “Born Ugly” or “Made Ugly.”  Here are the competitors — and I’d like you to vote on your favorite in the comments below!  Which is the ugliest?  YOU DECIDE.

THE SPIRAL THINGY: made out of a washing machine agitator.  Found at DI by Brian’s parents.

THE SPINNING FORTRESS: constructed out of Lego by James, Laura, and their children.  The cube not only lights up, but spins!!

THE GOLFER: brought by Justin & AnnaJune.  Susan, who used to be a Hallmark store employee, said it reminded her of the kind of thing she used to sell.

THE END OF INNOCENCE: decorated by Chris & Susan, featuring a feather boa, plastic ninjas and army guys, glitter pom poms, and pieces of a “High School Musical” jigsaw puzzle.  (They also named it “The End of Innocence.”)

THE APPLEGUTS: A column of “apple guts” — the side product of making apple cider — with an upside-down light-up Harry Potter wand inside.  (Shudder.)  Made by Brandon and Kellie.

THE SPIDER’S PRISON: Pat & Deb found this at DI.  There is a spider trapped inside the glass with those freaky silk flowers!

THE COLONEL SANDERS: Made by my mom and dad.  I think it’s appropriately dreamlike.

THE WATSON & CRICK: an ugly lamp tribute to DNA.  See the double helix hanging off the side?  And the bottom rim is decorated with “actg” stickers.  Made by Amy & John’s family.

THE SUBTLE KNIFE: My 16 year old brother Alex made this one.  The light bulb behind it flickered.

Those were the highlights (no pun intended).  Brian and William made awards together and handed them out (I think the Appleguts won the “Most Likely to be Rejected by DI” award).  In the meanwhile, everyone enjoyed a big pile of pizza and spinach salad.

Plus cupcakes for the children!

And now, of course . . . .


This is the Marbled Velvet Cake from Rose’s Heavenly Cakes.  With a ganache glaze on top.  It was humble-looking but very tasty.

Happy #35, Brian!  (xxxoo)

“Let’s Make Rachmaninoff Go Crazy!”

I’ve found that lately the best motivation to get Eleanor to practice her recital pieces is to let her play with the plastic busts of Beethoven and Rachmaninoff that I found at the thrift store.

If she plays her little arrangements of “Sonata Pathetique” or “Vocalise” a few times, the statues come down and give her kisses.  If she practices more, Eleanor gets to scratch the composers on the head and I make them moan with pleasure.  When she practices very well, then Beeth & Rach “go crazy” — I make them dance across the keyboard, up and down Eleanor’s arms and around her head while making Daffy Duck-style whoops. Eleanor loves it.  And we play it again.

Disrespectful, you say?  Maybe, but I think Sergei and Ludwig would be DARN HAPPY to know that little girls of the 21st century are still learning and playing their music, and to heck with what happens to a little plastic statue.

All the hard work paid off yesterday at her recital.  Our main focus in the past week was to get Eleanor to keep playing to the end, regardless of whether she freezes or makes a mistake or whatever.  For those of you who don’t play an instrument, please understand that this is very difficult to do.  A lot of adults can’t help stopping to correct themselves.  Learning to ignore errors and keep going is a skill of supreme confidence that usually only comes with the self-flagellation that is repeat public performances.

Eleanor is standing with her piano teacher, Kim

Anyway, the strategy was successful — in her performance, Eleanor totally froze during her solo piece, BUT after an excruciatingly long pause, she eventually pulled herself together enough to come to some kind of finish.  Whew!

The second piece she played was a duet that I performed with her.  Did she make mistakes?  Yes, but you can’t tell — she just skipped over them and kept going.  Yay!

You want to see it?  It’s only 3 1/2 minutes long:

Secret Mail

Yesterday I found William standing next to our mail slot and giggling.

“I don’t know if you should look in there,” he said, dancing a bit, “because there is secret mail inside.”

“Is there mail for me?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” he said, near bursting with glee.  “It’s secret, for you!”

I opened the little door, and there in our mail slot was a handful of little notes William had covered with scribbles and random letters.

“Is this for me?” I asked.  William just covered his mouth with both hands and dissolved into laughter.

That evening I had a good time reenacting the scene for Brian, complete with hand-smothered giggles, and he sighed.

“You know, there will come a time when William won’t be as cute as he is now, and that will be sad.”

Yes, it’s true.  It actually makes me physically hurt to think of William outgrowing the lovely stage he’s in right now.  Today his creative dance teacher complimented me on his behavior, saying, “I’ve never known such a pleasant-tempered boy.”  I smiled and thanked her, and she emphasized: “No, really.  I haven’t.”

Well, I would say she hasn’t seen him in what I call “The Realm of Pout,” but she has (on the legendary Thursday when he fell asleep in the car on the way to dance.  He refused to participate at all).  So the compliment is wholeheartedly acknowledged.  He’s our sunshine boy.

Get Your Ninja On

Jeff’s current obsession is with Lego “Ninjago” toys.  These are little ninja guys who battle each other by spinning around on tops.  Regular whirling dervishes, they are.

Which of course led to Jeffrey wanting to have a ninja-themed birthday party.  Gosh if I knew how to do that.  But we improvised.

We made throwing stars out of cardboard and duct tape and threw them at targets in the yard (way harder than you think) (Jeff took it SERIOUSLY)

and had a relay race that involved chopsticks and marshmellows.  We also played Blind Man’s Bluff, cleverly renamed as “Ninja Sneak.”  This was followed up by a Speed Slice tournament on Wii Sports Resort.  Even my parents played; they were really good at chopping up the giant bamboo.

I even went a little crazy at the Asian grocery store and served the kids gyoza and red bean ice cream.  The ice cream went over fine, but the gyoza?  Not so much.


So, a ninja cake.  How is it done?  Probably not like this:


And with candles, this ninja is happy to see you!

Jeff turned 9, but we always put on an extra candle “to grow on.”  Jeff was pretty thrilled.  Who cares what anyone else thinks?

But Mr. Ninja didn’t fare so well with the candles removed.  “He looks like Elmo!” is what all the children said.  One of them even gave him a cookie nose.  Sigh.  Well, I’m just glad my sweet boy had a special day.  Hi-YAH!

Letters From Camp

Did I mention that Eleanor is a Daisy Girl Scout?

Well, kind of.  She’s troopless.  I’ve tried for the past many, many months to start a troop, but I can’t find anybody to run it with me (you need two leaders to have a troop).  Most of my good friends live too far away to make it practical, and those who live close by don’t have daughters Ellie’s age.  So, she’s a “Juliette,” which is a class of rogue Girl Scout.

But she still gets to go to camp!  Which is what she did with her grandma this past weekend.  It was a one-night minicamp for kids with an adult.  Very fun stuff.

They slept in the Trefoil Lodge, up Provo Canyon.  Eleanor turned herself into a Sleeping Bag Monster . . .

. . . and got piggy-back rides from lots of new friends.  The camp had a “cowgirl round-up theme, in case you’re wondering about the hats.

On the first day, the campers went hiking and found a nest of baby garter snakes.  They cooked “brown bears” over a campfire (cinnamon-sugar-dipped biscuit dough toasted on a stick), sang silly camp songs, and looked at the stars with a local astronomer and her telescope.

The next morning they learned some country dance steps.  I think Eleanor and her grandma performed particularly well:

And if that wasn’t exhausting-sounding enough, the girls then spent the rest of the day doing arts and crafts: dipping candles, painting picture frames, and tie-dyeing shirts.  Eleanor’s candle is pleasingly funky:

And did I mention MORE brown bears before lunch?  Taaaaasty.  Kathryn was so impressed with the camp that she’s already asking to take Eleanor on the next one in January (they get to go snowshoeing!).  If I didn’t have a little nursing one at home, I’d take Ellie myself.  Thank goodness for grandmas who can stand in for me when duty calls!

Preschool v. Cousins

For your consideration: William on his first day of preschool!

He’s wearing an outfit that his grandmother gave him for his birthday.  Little did I know that morning that William had decided that he didn’t like this outfit, and snipped the edges of the shorts and the sleeves of the shirt with scissors.  I didn’t notice the raggedy, ruffly hems until after lunch that day.

Yes, yes, the time-out was massive.  But anyway: Preschool!  Which William loves with a passion.  This week he would prefer preschool over trips to Disneyland, I think.

In fact, he said that he wanted preschool more than a playdate at McDonald’s with his cousins — a shock indeed.  William doesn’t get to see his cousins Sarah and Abby very often since they live in Pittsburgh.  Wednesday was their last day here, so not only did we have a playdate for lunch (sorry, preschool!) but we also went up to my parents’ house that evening for an impromptu birthday/goodbye party for my sister.

Much goofiness ensued.  I made an attempt to document the action, but it was difficult.  These were taken in between bouts of jumping up and down on the guest bed upstairs:

Meanwhile, June decided to show Katie how to properly chew on a pillow:

And Jeffrey fulfilled his heart’s desire: playing Minecraft with Uncle Alex.  (Ohhhhhh, Minecraft.  Were you specifically created for Jeff to obsess over you, talk about you nonstop and do whatever amount of homework and chores is necessary to obtain permission to play you?  Because if so, mission accomplished.)

Alex made this face on purpose.  He deserves what he gets, Internet-wise.  Meanwhile, look at the worshipful gaze on Jeffrey’s face.

Insanity would have prevailed BUT for the good graces of my father:

This energy high, of course, is nothing compared to the half-naked ice cream-a-thon we had at the previous cousin meeting a week and a half earlier:


My mother has a “fairy garden” in her backyard, peopled with little knicknacks she finds at thrift stores.  June and Abby were playing so sweetly with it:

And this is baby Emmaline.  What?  Have you not met?  She is cousin June’s baby sister, and in this picture she is just over 1 week old.  What a sweet baby Emmykins!

But Katie’s not about to let some other baby out-cute her:

A good time was had by all, as they say.  During my sister’s two-week visit, she crammed in three family dinners, two cousin playdates, and a trip to Yellowstone.  And that was just with our side of the family!  (Apparently there was a wedding on the other side.  Wow).

I already miss you lots, Lizzie!  Take care back in Pittsburgh.

Schultüten 2011

Look what I did!  I was actually able to complete a craft project!

These are Schultüten — German “school cones,” given to kids in honor of the first day of school.  I’ve made them before, but this year I was able to do it properly.  With no heed taken to how many bitsy pieces of paper I littered on the kitchen floor.  We even found school-themed scrapbook paper for these — Wimmy’s says “preschool,” Ella’s says “First grade,” and Jeff’s says “Third grade.”  This kind of stuff is usually out of my depth.

The children received them the night before school, as part of Family Home Evening.  Jeffrey and Eleanor had spent time that afternoon selling vegetables at the farmer’s market with other kids from their farm-based summer camp . . . okay, anyway that’s the long explanation as to why they are both wearing the tie-dye shirts they made at camp; and why I was so exhausted that evening.  We had Chinese food for dinner instead of cooking.  It was quite the celebration.

These were inside the schultüten.  Look what the internet inspired me to do — I LABELED something.

We also spent time choosing a scripture to be our inspiring educational theme of the year.  I looked up “knowledge” in the Topical Guide and read likely candidates out loud, and then everyone voted.

Jeffrey really wanted to use Daniel 12:4, which includes the phrase “run to and fro, and knowledge will be increased.”  He gave us a demonstration on how this is done.

But what we ended up with was Isaiah 33:6:

And wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times, and strength of salvation: the fear of the Lord is his treasure.

Brian and I like everything in this verse except that “fear of the Lord is his treasure” part, which we had a difficult time explaining to the kids.  (“Obeying God means being afraid of Him?  Something about treasure??”)

And here’s Jeff and Ella, all ready for 3rd and 1st grade, respectively:

They are so good at looking out for one another.

The whole family was able to come along for the first day.  Jeff has Ella’s old kindergarten teacher for third grade this year, and Ella has his old first grade teacher.  It was great to see so many familiar faces on the first day of school.