Sunday, April 29, 2007 ;
3:22 PM
28 April
Sat evening

We were invited to a church friend's house for a BBQ. Yay, the weather was good and this is the first BBQ we are going to have, ever since leaving Spore. And in Spore we loved to do BBQs.

Though the BBQs here do not typically include homemade garlic spread on french baguette slices, sting rays, sotong, tiger prawns, salmon, lamb kebabs (from Swiss Butchery), and of course sweet potato and corn... hee... wow, it was still very good...

Nothing beats cooking meat over an open fire... so juicy and fragrant. yum yum, and they marinated their meats well.

And they were such great hosts... They are already grandparents of 3 grandkids, but their grandkids are in Japan for couple of years, so they had some toys but those toys were already stored away for quite awhile. They dug them out and even set up this wigwam tent for the kids to play in. The kids had sooo much fun with the tent, the blocks and wagon of toys, and the 3 cats... They chased the cats all over the place.

And their garden is beautiful. Unlike ours, flushed with weeds and many different species of grass, their lawn is even and they had various flowering shrubs (lilac), fruit trees and such. I caught the apple tree and apple flowers on camera, but they also had apricot and some other fruit trees which I forgot the names of. Arrggh, terrible memory.

The other thing I managed to do there may sound silly... I managed to get our whole family weighed! haha.

They have an electronic digital bathroom scale and we all weighed ourselves cos we haven't done so since coming to USA. Both kids only put on about 0.5 to 0.7kg. Pathetic. Both dh and I remained the same.

That's odd cos my jeans seem tighter, that's why I thought I was putting on weight from all the Ben and Jerry's.. Maybe the overall weight is the same but somehow the fats are all migrating to the waist. hmmm, not a nice thought...

The kids look even thinner now that they're not wearing winter wear.. They looked much better (and cuter) in the thick jackets... Now they're just scrawny. And I loved hiding behind those thick clothes too. Though laundry was a nightmare in winter. Now I am having lighter loads of washing.

There might be cold spells still, but soon I can look forward to storing all the warm clothing away and my parents will come with my long-lost clothes from Singapore. All my beloved old clothes I used to wear... I didn't bring them cos they're mostly sleeveless or short sleeve, too thin etc. Now I can wear them! yay!

And nursing will finally be less troublesome. I can wear just my sleeveless MIM need to lift thousands of layers before ds2 can nurse... aiyoh, and also when I nurse in public, the cold winds freeze up my tummy, even with the bfg clothes covering it.

Great! I await and welcome summer with open arms!

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

3:14 PM
Warning again: this post is full of dandelions.

If you don't like plants and flowers (or absolutely had enough), skip this post. Also, if you had enough of A level Bio (esp the plant part), and may suffer from violent convulsions if you come across yet another impt keyword {which i purposely put in bold}, then skip this post. :-)

We had some straggly yellow wildflowers that finally formed the dandelion clocks now. But the joy was in finding a whole field of them nearby and we went there as a whole family after Bible class on Wed... Although it was 8.30pm, it was still bright, so we took some pics till about 9+ when it turned dark.

Then the next morning, I brought the kids out for our walk, and they requested to go there again.

I didn't realise how much they liked it (blowing the dandelion achene or clock) until we went home and ds1 drew many pictures of the activity. Here's one of them, which shows the whole family, that's why I like it. There are others he drew just himself, or he and daddy and he and me, and he and ds2.

His drawings have a little more detail now, at least we start to have some hair. Although he knows I have longer hair than the rest of them, I don't know why he draws so little on my head and it is curved to one side somemore. Haha, very funny.

I taught him some phonics before, so he wrote D for daddy and A for my name, (not sure why not M for mummy), cos he couldn't spell out the whole word.

Then I asked him what was daddy holding in the other hand, he said "camera" cos daddy was taking pictures of us. The camera looked like an iron... haha. And all those "lollipops" we are holding are the dandelions... :-)

Ok, so the yellow "flower" we see is actually a flower head, which consists of many tiny flowers. That's why each flower later develops and a seed results from each tiny flower. And therefore you have a whole head of seeds to blow away...

Taraxacum is the genus name. (see Wikipedia for more info). What's interesting is, the dandelion is commonly triploid, so it is supposed to be sterile. But it reproduces by apomixis. (dear students, rem learning this?)

Amazing fact: there are usually 54- 72 seeds per head but some can form up to 2000. (not verified cos I found it on Wiki).

As far as we are concerned, the more seeds the better. They are so fun to blow away... ds2 was so mesmerized by the flying seeds he spent a lot of time just looking at us blow before trying it himself.

But ds2 blows very weakly, so a lot of the seeds end up on his clothes (see below left). Then he had some on his hair too, and in a very sweet gesture, I saw ds1 dusting them off for ds2 (below right).

Took a close up with and without flash and got very different effects, both are interesting to me:

We spent a lot of time just frolicking in the field. See how they use it as a sword too?

When ds2 blows, a lot of saliva comes out of his mouth as well. Reminds you of their birthday cakes right? :-) How they try to blow their candles but the cake gets contaminated with lots of saliva spray instead. See his pursed lips trying hard to blow below:

And the flying seeds are so pretty, I couldn't even capture the magic properly here:


rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

2:37 PM
25 April

Discovery Center -4th and last Art lesson

As usual, playtime first.
Today ds1 wanted to be the postman. Recently I had some parcels delivered in quick succession. One ordered by a Spore friend cos it is something very cheap if bought online and sent to a USA address. I'll then re-send it to him by normal post. Others were dh's and my own online purchases.
I bought some books from Amazon, they have truly great offers and free shipping, can't beat their prices. And dh orders his coffee beans and wood for making bows online.

So ds1 has been seeing a lot of the postman. If they are parcels, the postman sends them right up to the door. And it is the same postman everyday. Sometimes when I am busy with ds2, ds1 will open the door and meet him for me. :-) He is such s great help. What will I do when he starts preschool? haha

Being a cashier too, is something he enjoys, and something they encounter the most often.

ds2 preferred the balls and tubes this time. They're magnetic and stick to the metal wall, and can be placed in anyway you like to let the balls zoom through. I've made some fancy ones with ds1 before, resembling roller coaster rides.

Then, somehow, when it was about 30min to the lesson, suddenly there was this staff member who told me there was a free demo and storytelling about keeping healthy teeth, and asked me to bring my kids to that room. I told her we had a lesson soon and she said I could just go and then leave earlier.

So we went. ds2 was napping by that time. So you see only ds1 here. Plus so many other pretty mommies. They all look so young and hip... I always wear a long sleeve top (still cold for me) and jeans. Big contrast to some of the moms here, who are either super glam, or super hip/ casual. Like this hot mama really caught my attention. Her princess is very cute too. Anyway she spotted me taking this pic! :-)

And oh, I have met soooo many young moms, like 23 yrs old and 3 kids, oldest one older than ds1. So I am thinking, by the time she is my age, her kids are teens already. Wah, can enjoy life already... amazing. no wonder the grandparents here are all so young, 40 yrs old with 4-5 grandkids already. hmm...

The story was about a visit to the dentist and as we left, they gave us that book as a souvenir. Even though we left early. So nice. Furthermore, it was such a beautifully illustrated book. (was just telling Jen that I like this about here... a lot of freebies that I value...)

I mean in Singapore there are a lot of freebies too, but often have to queue from the night before? Or spend money... Or maybe they'll be stuff like perfume or shampoo samples, which I don;t value as much. Dunno if I mentioned but now I am getting 4 free magazines every month, as part of a free annual subscription gift. I just filled out something online and got the Reader's Digest and so on (all very useful mags)... So happy.

Digress so much...

Great Artist this lesson: Frank Stella
Info: American, born 1936.

Technique studied: 2D flat Prints made by "etching"?
(Wikipedia has some info on him and his techniques:

The kids did something simplified:
1. Get a piece of foam. Use some tools like ice-cream sticks, paper clip etc to etch a design or drawing into the foam piece. (below left)

2. Use a roller, roll some paint on, and roll that over the etching on the foam. Not too hard, and not too much paint, or the etchings will be covered with paint too.

3. Then press a piece of paper over the painted foam piece.

Voila! The print is completed. ds1 did 2: a robot and a human (shown below)

Unfortunately, it wasn't dry and we had to leave already, so I placed a piece of paper on top of each print and packed into my bag.

The paint is sticky and stuck onto the white papers. And when I peeled them off, sigh... Now there are strips and patches of paper on the masterpieces...

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

Wednesday, April 25, 2007 ;
12:40 AM
Some updates on dh's work:

As you know from the earlier posts, he auctioned his 1st bow - a violin bow. Wood used - Pernambuco wood, supposed to be very strong and hardy (ok, I am using layman's terms here. it sounded better when he was describing it to me) haha.

Then he just completed the cello bow. That was using snakewood. It's got very nice grain/ swirl patterns (again, layman's terms). Anyway the wood is beautiful and when I feel the bow, it just looks so good I wish I could play the cello and coax some beautiful strains out of the cello right away. The cello is so melodious and sings like the human voice, I really like it (if there's a good player playing it, like Yoyo Ma?) :-)

He sold it off too, that's why must take picture first. :-)

Although it doesn't pay as well as my tuition or his violin teaching in the past, it is a good start for now. (Of course can't even compare to our full time jobs).

We're going out for dinner tonight and treating another family. Chose a CHinese restaurant (haha, it is the best of what's available here). They are one of the church deacons, his wife and 2 teenage sons. They helped us a lot and we haven't got down to having a meal with them yet. The TV my sons watch VCD on was given by them, as well as a whole lot of other stuff.

By the way, dory, do pple in UK call lunch "dinner" too?

People here always invite me for "dinner" and I keep thinking it is the evening meal. But it's at noon. So they've breakfast, dinner and supper. No lunch. Whereas for us, it is breakfast, lunch, dinner then supper (11pm meal) right? haha

Then there are snacktimes and teatimes for me too. Like at 10am, 3pm, all those in between times. I don't have a bathroom scale at home but I do think I am putting on weight! :-)

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

Sunday, April 22, 2007 ;
6:25 AM
21 April

There is another family concert, this time by the Utah Symphony and Platypus Theatre. It is called their Lollipops Series for young children.

$10 per adult and $5 per child, infants also need tickets, but it was well worth it.
We got tickets for the 12.30pm session, but there were preconcert activities before it, at 11.30am.

Their preconcert activities are different from the SSO Babies Proms, I thought it would be similar... But ds1 enjoyed this more, even though it didn't have any balloon sculpturing, magic shows or clowns.

This was no-frills, no-gimmicks... hmm, maybe gimmicks? cos in a way the private schools get publicity by holding the acitivities for the kids....

For eg, Kindermusik set up their percussion instruments and let the kids play with all thsoe interesting things, like guiros, claves, bongos, rainbow sticks, ocean drums... And also had another area for free trials of their classes, every 5-7min they start a new group...

However, ds2 was napping (fell asleep in the car) and ds1 was too excited in trying out every single instrument that he didn't want to do the Kindermusik group activity... :-)

There were booths set up, grouped by instrument type, so woodwinds, brass, percussion, strings... From what I see, Kindermusik took the percussion, another music school called Summerhays (?) took the strings, cos violins, cellos and double basses were there, all sizes, even the very cute 1/32 size, for the kids to try.

Dh says it's a win-win situation. The concert org is happy cos the kids and parents are happy, with all these instruments to play with... And the Utah Symphony doesn't need to pay entertainers to come do the preconcert acty... Then the music schools are happy cos they get much publicity.

The brass and woodwinds areas were also manned by what I think were teachers and students of the private music schools.

Below: Trying out the Woodwinds (flute, clarinet and saxophone)

Below: AT the brass section (tried out trumpet and trombone).

[Actually ds1 had already tried them in Spore, cos dh borrowed some unused instruments home from CCAB, so when he could blow out the notes on his first try (and held them like a pro), the booth pple were suitably impressed and kept praising him. :-)]

The French horn was something ds1 had not tried at all, but there was a queue for it, so we skipped that.

Now for a report/ review of the concert...

Duration: 1 hour. Venue: Maurice Abravanel Hall (home to Utah Symphony)


Basically the orchestra played continuously throughout the whole hour, only stopping for a few seconds sometimes for the actors to make a point.

Includes excerpts from:
Cardy: "Rhythm in Your Rubbish" Suite
Copland: Buckaroo Holiday
Fucik: Entrance of the Gladiators
Strauss: Vienna Blood
Anderson: Sandpaper Ballet
Duschenes: Bottle Music
Ponchielli: Dance of the Hours
Freedman: Samba 2 from "Oiseaux Exotiques"
Brahms: Lullaby
Prokofiev: "Romeo and Juliet" Suite

Wagner: Turkey in the straw
Tchaikovsky: "Swan Lake" Suite

Actors: From the Platypus Theatre. Just 1 male and 1 female, but they are really good. Very theatrical and comical, able to capture the kids' attention very well and their exagerrated expressions and actions made the kids laugh many times.

They have actually collaborated with the Malaysian Phil and HK Phil too... Performing other works for young kids. Like "How the Gimquat found her song".

Basic Story: They act as homeless vagrants who stay at the rubbish dump and are trying to sleep. They were fighting over a piece of foam to be their pillow, when they accidentally discovered that by beating a stick on a discarded pan lid, they could make music. After that, they realised many of the items at the rubbish dump could make wonderful music too.

Some examples:-- a saw that can play duets with a cello, bottles (blowing across the mouth) that play with the flutes, a scrap of brightly colored material that conjures up an evening in Vienna -- the tramps are launched into a fantasy world where music and beauty can be found in all that surrounds them.

An exploration of creativity, this symphony program looks at the source of music and all things beautiful, involving the audience in the creation of symphonic music and encouraging us to explore our own creativity and perceptions of beauty.

The orchestra provided very apt accompaniment. Stimes the actors danced or acted at the side while the musicians played. Stimes the actors played together with the orch, and stimes the actors created an intro using the trash items and the orch continued on with the same rhythm or motif.

They were good with timing. Everytime there was a piece of music that went on for as much as the kids can take it, to the point where you start to hear them get restless and fidgeting (losing their attention), the songs will either quicken in pace or something new will happen to recapture the kids' attention. I was very happy with that cos I could totally relax and not worry if both ds will start to make noise and disturb others (older kids and adults).

Some egs include, use of lighting (change in colours and flickering ones), creating stars in the sky that moved (using the sphere that can rotate and reflect the light, dunno what you call that, with many-faceted mirrors?), or changing the scene they were acting.

They even performed some "black theatre" towards the end, creatively using the trash scraps, turning on UV light? and using the lighted items to make various animals, and actions to entertain the kids. They matched the music at the same time.

Ok, which trash item did ds1 like best? He loved the saw. They used some wood and finally a bow, to play against the edge of a metal "saw", and they managed to create both vibrato and glissando effects by bending the saw at appropriate times, and bowing simultaneously.

I liked the bottles. They took the kids through the whole discovery process. The female actor accidentally blew across a bottle while trying to drink from it. She felt it was disgusting to the taste and poured all the liquid out, then blew across again. Then she realised the pitch of the sound was different. So she and the guy tried out different bottles. Each time they produced a new sounds, both acted very excited and ecstatic, delighting the kids to no end. Then they began playing a melody together, which the orchestra took up and continued later.

There were the drumming, using buckets, pots pans... Spoons clapping together and scraping off pipes (sounds nice, like cabasa)... tinkling against porcelain/ china bowls... shaking a container of beans (maracas)... stomping on the ground..

There was interactive clapping with the audience, divided into half. And another segment where kids were brought on stage and divided into 2 teams, one following the lady and the other the guy. Then they had a battle to see who'd produce the best music. Each child was given a trash item to play with and a rhythm to follow. :-) Fun.

An impt thing I must say: there was no talking at all. All the acting was a mime, silent... So it is solely the music that the kids hear. The acting, rather than distracting, allows the kids to focus on the music.

Great! I think it is even better than the prev family concert. I will definitely look out for more.

Following pics are taken after the concert, inside and just outside the concert hall. Just to show you the 3 males' new haircuts... and after so long, an update on myself (a little more close up than the skiing pic now).

And oh, I must mention this too! Parking was free, so good... We thought attending concerts in Spore are quite cheap already, Esplanade parking and all incl, cos when we were at Sydney Opera House, the concert tix were expensive and the parking was A$19 per entry. We were so shocked, cos it was at night... But this is even better, cheaper tix and free parking.

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

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