Monday, May 23, 2016

Uh, there's a window well...

So the tree guy I had called to come trim our shrubbery was hard at work.
The saw was buzzing and the branches were flying.
It was already looking better outside my office window.
The bushes had been growing out of control since their haircut from a couple of years earlier.
The interior ones had shot up and the whole area was pretty wild looking.
I had called the trimmers back.
"Just do what you did the last time and make it all look better," I suggested before I retreated indoors.
"Watch out for quail nests, though."
They were busy for a while.
I heard a couple of shouts when they surprised some wasps in a nest deep inside and noticed the one guy standing deep inside the greenery. But I didn't think a lot about it.
When I came out with my checkbook to survey the results, he started explaining why he was in the middle of the bushes.
"I wanted to try and lift the branches so they would fill in the hole there," he said, pointing to where he'd been.
"There's one over there too," he said, gesturing to the other side.
I looked at where he was looking.
Yes, there is kind of a hole in the center on both sides, right where the window wells are.
"Uh, there are window wells there," I said. "Maybe I should have mentioned that."
The guy looked at me.
"Really? That would have been a surprise," he said somewhat dourly. "That would explain a lot."
I wonder if you can be sued for damage to a hedge-trimmer who isn't informed about a window well?

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Busting his chops

Say cheese!
We busted a few myths when we were in Washington D.C.
Like, the Cherry Blossom Festival lasts for the first two weeks in April. (By the time we were there on April 8, there was one tree with blossoms still hanging on to it.)
And the weather's pretty nice. (It was super rainy the whole time.)
But most importantly, we discovered that Washington's teeth were not wooden.
In fact, he had teeth made of a number of things, none of them wood.
He had some human teeth replacements, some of ivory, some donkey, some horse and some hippopotamus teeth, held together by gold springs.
He had one set made of teeth from some of his Mt. Vernon slaves. (Yes, Washington owned slaves, mostly inherited from his wife but he did own slaves even while he was lobbying against the practice of slavery.)
He spent a good deal of his time hunting for good dentures and was pretty miserable most of his days.
That's why he doesn't smile in any of his photographs and/or paintings.
If you notice, he isn't smiling on the one dollar bill.
He holds his mouth in a tight line.
The poor man was in a fair amount of pain. He lost his first adult tooth when he was 22 and had just one of his original teeth left by the time he became the nation's first president.
In one of the Smithsonian museums, there's a whole exhibit dedicated just to Washington's dental troubles.
I think it's admirable that he was able to conduct himself with dignity every day. Nothing wears you down like mouth pain.
I have increased admiration for the man.
I had no idea and by the way, we never found the cherry tree he chopped down, either.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Read the fine print

Riding high
We were quite proud of ourselves for discovering and using the BikeShare program in Washington D.C.
We learned to register for the shiny red bikes, unhook them from their stations and ride them all over the National Mall.
We marveled at how handy they were and how much easier it was to see the monuments and memorials from bikeside. We zoomed all around.
We were careful to watch our time and return the bikes both days before our 24-hour period was up, sometimes hurrying to make it but always there in time (or so we thought).
So when we got back from our vacation and looked at the bills we were curious about a $60 charge from BikeShare that we didn't feel could be right.
We knew we'd be charged $16 to register each bike and then we understood there would be a $2 hourly charge for seat time.
We figured we rode both bikes a total of maybe 10-12 hours.
We were conservative and it rained a lot so we didn't ride them everyday all day long.
I called up the BikeShare lady to complain, thinking someone had taken a bike we hadn't locked up properly or someone had picked up a ticket on the ground and used it in our names.
I was prepared to be righteously indignant.
The BikeShare lady wasn't very interested in my case.
"You had a lot of overages on your bikes," she said with a sigh. "You were supposed to return them to the stations every 30 minutes. Anything else I can help you with?"
What? That would be crazy. You would barely be able to get from one place to another before it would be time to lock them back up.
I sputtered.
I told her no one told us that.
"It's all there in the contract" she said, unimpressed. "You should have read that part."
I got the feeling she heard this all of the time.
And now it's weeks after the fact. I'm in Utah. She's in Washington D.C. She has our money and the bikes.
I have no recourse except to get mad and warn others in this blog.
So that's what I'm doing here.
Bikers beware...

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Washington sights and sounds

A bit of the National Air & Space Museum
Marc and I sought advice before we headed off to Washington D.C.
We asked a son-in-law who had served a mission there what to see and where to go. We asked another one and a son who had visited or spent quality time there what were the best attractions. We asked a friend who was a page in Congress what we should see first and what we could skip if time ran out. Everyone was agreed on one thing. We had to go in prepared.
The Spirit of St. Louis, open a window and hang out!
There's too much to do and see to be wasting any time pondering once you arrive.
We ended up with a top 10 list that included seeing the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial and the Washington Monument.
We had six days and good shoes.
We wrote ahead and got reservations to see The White House. We made an appointment to tour the Capitol.
We bought SmartTrip passes for the Metro.
So at 7 a.m. on the first day we toured The White House, saw the Blue Room, the Green Room, the State Dining Room and the White House china.
Then we trudged across the rainy streets to the Capitol where we walked through miles of underground tunnels until we found our Utah congressman and a helpful albeit surprised intern who took us on the nickel tour. (They'd lost our e-mail.)
Brigham and friends
We saw the two statues that supposedly represent Utah: Brigham Young and Philo Farnsworth (excuse me, but Philo is from Rigby, Idaho)!
We rented a couple of red bikes from the BikeShare rack and headed along the Potomac River to the National Mall where we climbed a lot of stairs to see Lincoln and Jefferson.
We ducked when we realized our bike path was directly in line with planes landing and taking off from the Reagan National Airport. They were so close!
We visited the National Archives where we could see the actual Declaration of Independence signed boldly by my great-great-(many more greats-)uncle John Hancock. It's a little faded but so very historic.
We ducked out of the rain and into the Castle at the Smithsonian and saw all kinds of cool things. It's a great primer for the rest of the museums, kind of a Cliff Notes version.
At the Air & Space Museum we saw the foods astronauts eat, the sleeping bags stuck with Velcro to the wall, the big and little planes, the hot air balloons and toys inspired by the space shuttle.
We saw a huge tarantula in the Museum of Natural History, the Hope Diamond and the original Wright Brother's airplane.
We stared soberly at the thousands of grave markers in the Arlington National Cemetery, visited the Kennedy graves.
We spent a day going back in time at Mount Vernon, seeing the land and the river and the vegetation as it was when Washington lived there.
We learned about Washington's teeth and the reasons he never really smiled. (He struggled with dental problems his whole life.)
We visited Ford's Theater.
Everywhere we went there was something riveting to see and to understand.
Marc loved the information, the detail and the rooms full of exhibits.
Look out below!

He would have been happy just to immerse himself in the history.
I was happy that I got to see the exhibit of The First Lady's dresses from Martha Washington to Michelle Obama!

Monday, April 25, 2016

A safe place

Mia's prize
Mia knew what she wanted when she came to visit the other day.
She went straight to the pantry and the jar of Jelly Bellys.
She told me she needed more Jelly Bellys because she had friends coming over to play and all she had at her house were the ones nobody liked.
In her 4-year-old mind, the ones at my house weren't doing anybody any good. They just sat on the shelf day after day.
(I've been saving them for game nights.)
I got them out and poured some into a bowl so she could sort out the kinds she liked.
She busily selected red ones and "vanilla" ones and blue ones. She made a separate pile with the ones she knows her grandpa likes: licorice and hot ones.
She tried for a while to determine which ones were chocolate and which were coffee-flavored but after a while, it was too hard.
She simply put them all in a plastic bag to take home.
Then, just at we went out the door, she dashed back to grab the jar.
"I'll need all of these!" she declared.
On the way home in the car she realized she would need to be careful or her stash would disappear once her siblings saw the candy.
I gave her a plastic grocery bag to put the jar into.
I knotted the top so it was somewhat disguised.
She was happy.
She told me she would put them right into her bed so nobody would see them.
She didn't want them in the closet or under a bed or in a cupboard.
She would keep them safe where she could check on them at any time.
Last I heard her plan was working well.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

no girls allowed

Of all of the pageantry and song and colors at the Cavalia Odysseo show, 7-year-old Hannah was mostly stunned with one thing.
The horses are all geldings and stallions, no mares.
"They're all boys?!" Hannah cried, after the opening question and answer quiz on the curtains told us there were zero mares in the equine cast.
She was truly dismayed and hugged her plush, black horse closer to her.
She'd already christened her stuffed toy "Shadow" and defended her horse's gender to a little girl in the restroom line.
The little girl had one just like Hannah's and introduced her as "Rose."
Hannah told her the black one she held was named "Shadow" and the girl said, "That's a boy's name."
Hannah was indignant and after we returned to the show, she kept repeating "I can't believe they are all boys!"
That's the first thing she told her mom when she got home. before she told her about the magic lake that appeared, the snow, the rain, the galloping white horses, the dappled black and white horse, the jumping guys and the ladies who ride two horses at the same time.
Hannah had looked forward to going to the show for weeks, not only because she would get to go alone with grandma but because horses are her third favorite animal.
She was pleased with the free Strawberry Fanta and the poster of the white horse whose head is on posters all up and down I-15.
She liked our seats and jumped up and down waiting for the show to start.
She liked the carousel with girls draped in white and hanging upside down.
She kept trying to find the youngest horse, the 6-year-old, in the troupe. (We think it was the one that wandered a little out of line now and then.)
She was pretty impressed and stayed focused for almost the whole three hours.
But when she headed out for school the next morning, she was still wondering why they were all boys.
"All boys? That's weird," she said, shaking her head.
I didn't even try to explain what might happen if there were 12 stallions and dozens of attractive mares working together every day.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Washington Post

Harbinger of lines to come
My husband has always wanted to visit Washington D.C.
Waiting in the rain in a museum
So for my birthday we went to Maui and this year for his, we went to the nation's capital — the most visited place in the United States and at the busiest time.
We planned to visit the White House, the Capitol, the Jefferson Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, Mount Vernon, Arlington, and several of the Smithsonian museums.
It was a good, ambitious plan.
We just didn't plan on taking along Utah weather.
Our first clue that we'd misjudged the situation was when we noticed free "wet umbrella bags" on every turn.
Our second was that we were depending on our heavy raincoats, raincoats we'd only grabbed at the last minute because my son (who has been there before) suggested we might need them.
We needed the weatherproofing, the warmth and the hoods.
Happy Birthday Marc!
Turns out that Washington D.C. downpours are soakers.
The granite sidewalks hold the water so you're sloshing through about a half inch to an inch of water all the time.
The tourist attractions are not designed for tourist comfort. There's nowhere to hide from the raindrops until you get inside.
It's really quite the challenge.
Not singing in the rain
We got so we looked forward to getting onto the Metro for refuge.
waiting in the rain at The White House
I decided early on I would save my travel blog about seeing Washington's teeth and the enslavement quarters at Mount Vernon and Ford's Theater where Lincoln was shot and the Green Room at the White House and post this warning first.
Waiting in the rain for the Capitol
If you visit Washington D.C. in the spring (or apparently in the summer, the fall or the winter) go prepared for weather that changes in the blink of an eye.
Take layers, long sleeves and waders!