Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Repurposing Frenzy

I have been on a repurposing rampage.  We just moved into our new rental house and I have wanted to get some furniture redone and looking good.  

I have had this bookshelf forever and finally stained and polyed it.  It now officially does not look ghetto anymore.

This was the find of the century. I needed a dresser for Julia's room. I went to the Goodwill Bargain Bin and found this beauty for $7. It is solid wood and very heavy.  It was already primed and just needed a good coat of paint and some cool hardware.  

I think it took me 90 minutes to finish it.  It got a cream coat of paint and a brown glaze.  The new hardware is from Home Depot.

A few weeks ago I went to a yard sale and saw this. It was a kids dresser, with a heavy coat of minty green paint.

Unfortunately, with the picture they look the same color, but they are not. 

Before I started painting, Rinar added a beautiful trim to the top and bottom of the cabinet and on the edges of the two shelves.  This is an easy way to really change the look of a piece and make it look expensive.

I painted the entire cabinet in a teal color, then did a green apple acrylic wash. This was an extra step, but it was totally worth it. Plus, it is really easy. I just got a small bottle of acrylic paint from Walmart, in the craft section.  I put the paint in a bowl and added some water and mixed it up. Then I wiped down the cabinet in the green apple water. I finished off the paint treatment with a dark brown glaze.  And I just love the look.

Here is a close up of the top drawer. I got these cute pulls at Hobby Lobby when I was in Salt Lake City.

Inside the cabinet. I lined it with some cute fabric.

I also redid these two dresser a very light tealish blue, for my boys rooms.  They go so perfectly with everything else in there. Once I get the room cleaned up and totally done I will post the finished product.  But it is looking totally rad.

I have several other projects I am hoping to complete in the next few weeks. I want my garage cleared out so that I can park there.  Repurposing is such a fun thing to do.  I get excited just thinking about it.  Take something trashy and ghetto and making it wow.  Stay tuned for my next round of stuff.  

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Evenings of Fun

It was great to be able to go to Salt Lake City for the week. We were able to catch up with friends and family. On Monday night, we went with my sister Catye and her husband Mike, Jamie and Leah, and Melanie, Halle, and Caleb to Seven Peaks water park for a fun night of swimming and sliding.

We got a sweet deal. It was free!  Catye is working there right now. It was a lot of fun to go with kids and a lot of adults. There were plenty of grown-ups to help with all the little ones.  Melanie, Jamie, and Zach made a good trio because they are all very daring.  Me...not so much, thank you.  After the water park, I went with my family to The Pie for some delicious pizza.

Tuesday night was a blast as well.  We headed to American Fork to catch up with Lindsay, Justin, and their crew. They just moved into a complex where there is a community pool.  The kids were in heaven, catching up on old times, and swimming like crazy. I love all of these kids so much.

Kinley girl.


Melanie put Taryn in the pool with a regular diaper. Then the poor girl walked around, looking like she was going to give birth to an exceptionally large soggy-bottom nappy.  It was quite funny.

Taryn and Malaya

Jump in kids! Weeeeeeee!

These two are buddies. They have always been the best of friends. We miss them so much.

I was also able to babysit for Melanie so that she could go to the temple. It was a nice morning. We took a walk to the playground and the whole time we were walking, Caleb read to me from his Time Warp Trio book.  So stinkin' cute.

By the end of the week, Caleb told me that Zach and him used to be worst enemies, but now they are best friends.  Aaah.  Zach also seemed to make amends with Breken and they are now on better terms.  They are no longer worst enemies as well.  Zach can now officially mark two more names off of his Worst-Enemy List. Whew. Thank goodness.

Standing in front of their house: Caleb, Raef, Ava, Zach, Halle, and Taryn

Friday night was great also because we were able to see Catye, Mike, Jamie and Leah one more time. We did dinner at Cafe Rio and then went back to Jamie's apartment for some Wii action and football pointers.

Catye and Mike stayed over so that they could catch the Saturday finale concert at the school.  It was a fun week and I am glad I was able to do it.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Intermountain Suzuki String Institute, Round Two

We just got back from round two of the Intermountain Suzuki String Institute in Draper, Utah.  Wow! What a week. It was great and worth every penny.  I took the kids to this violin camp two years ago, and we had a beneficial, but rough first go at it.  I was better prepared this time. I left the little kids home with Rinar for the week. 

We drove to Utah Sunday and stayed with Jared and Melanie again. They were so gracious to be our personal hotel and the great thing is that their house is only a few miles from Juan Diego High School, where they hold the camp.  

Photo: Getting ready to start camp.  Zach just realized he has to play the violin all week.  Not so happy.  This could be a long week. For him.  Not me.
Let the fun begin.

The Suzuki camp is no joke.  They get the very best teachers from around the world and fill every single room in that high school and the elementary school with classes: orchestra, technique, performance, chamber, fiddling, etc. The music fills the hallways, emanating from every nook, corner, stairwell. I think that Dr. Suzuki must smile down on this incredible string experience. It really is an experience.  This year they had 750 students attend. Most of them were violinists.  There was a healthy amount of cellists, and then the poor violists.  There are not enough violists!

Zach did a fiddling class with Aaron Ashton.  This was his second time in there and he loved it. Aaron even let him try out the electric violin. Zach was really happy about that.

One of the benefits of attending this camp is that you get to take a masters class, where you get one-on-one attention from a prominent teacher.  Raef was assigned to Beth Stuen-Walker, a viola teacher from Washington. I don't have a picture of Zach's teacher, Rosalie Keddington, but I did get to see her work with him one day.  She was great, also.

Here is something I was really excited about. Because Raef is far enough along in viola, he was able to play in a real string quartet, two violins, a cello, and his viola.  They were taught by Rebecca McFaul, who is a member of the Fry Street Quartet. They played a Rondo by Mozart and named themselves "Wolfie's Gang". It was challenging, but fun and it really came together by the time they performed on Saturday.

Zach also played in a 6 violin string chamber group with Becca Moench and I think they named themselves "Table For Six".

This was definitely a highlight of the week, violin performance (V6) with Terry Durbin.  If you ever get the chance to take a class from him, you do not want to miss it.  The guy is so fun, funny, animated, and a little off-the-wall. The kids were cracking up the whole time. But he was able to pull the very best out of them for their number, Concerto in G Minor by Vivaldi.

What a relief, because we almost had a replay of our last ISSI camp.  While we were sitting in the auditorium for the opening ceremony, Zach had a panic attack realizing he would have to play a whole lot of violin for a whole lot of days.  The kid almost had a nervous breakdown. Then he went immediately to Terry's class, and it all seemed to be okay.  Thank you, Mr. Durbin.

Zach's technique class was taught by Wilfried van Gorp, from Belgium.  He is very funny and tough.  I think it makes a perfect combination for teaching violin.

 Raef was mentored by David Becker two years ago in viola, and this go around he taught Zach in orchestra. That was pretty fun. He is a super-nice guy and both my kids really like him.

Here is Wolfie's Gang right after their successful chamber performance.  Well done, kids.

Raef was in Orchestra 11 with Michael Bayless. He was place quite a ways ahead of Zach, but this is what happens when you play the viola and there aren't many violists.  You get promoted quickly.

Our nights were filled with lots of fun stuff, but I will do another post for that.  Camp was a huge success and I could see an incredible amount of growth in both of them. When the concert finished early Saturday afternoon, we hit the road for the long drive back to Reno. I hope we get to go again next year.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Back To Life

It has been a busy week readjusting to normal life around here. I still have a lot of unpacking to do and projects, projects, projects. But I have been quickly slaying to "project" dragon.  I have been painting tons of stuff and loading it up into rooms.  Raef and Zach's room is looking totally awesome. I can't wait to put it on the blog. It is almost done.  Julia's room is coming together as well, and Harry and Eli now have a colorful and happy place to call home.  Thank you Goodwill and Home Depot.

We are going to Lazy 5 Park today up in Spanish Springs. I thought I would take a few pictures of the little ones to capture the moment. These guys love posing for the camera.

This is Julia's pose.  Supermodel in the making. Don't you love the hand action on the cheek?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Our Trip to Europe: Prague

   We arrived in Prague on Sunday evening, May 27. The drive was uneventful, but much longer than we anticipated.  The southern part of Czech Republic (Bohemia)  has a very green landscape with gently rolling hills and numerous prostitutes lining the sparsely populated road.  That was about the only interesting thing for the entire drive...the sloping hills, of course.

After checking into the hotel, we couldn't resist a quick glance at what the city had to offer.  We soon discovered that there was plenty. The city has a pulse that is infectious and a sparkling personality. It is not as scrubbed as Vienna, but seemed a lot more interesting and quirky.

Every morning we were able to enjoy a breakfast buffet that was quite lavish. Of course, it took me several days to figure out that there was jelly for the great bread selection.  The bread was in one corner, the butter in another, and the jelly on the other side of the very large island. Hmmm...who knew?

We hit the castle quarter first after discovering that the Jewish quarter was closed for some sort of Jewish holiday. Oh, those wacky Jews and their holidays! Luckily, we had many days to be able to visit it.

The castle quarter was a lot of fun.  We followed the suggestions in our Rick Steves' Prague book and ate at a really good Czech restaurant. We all tried different traditional Czech dishes and I was surprised how much I enjoyed the food. They use a lot of bread and cranberries, plus the yummy meat.  I wasn't really a fan of the cabbage, so I left that plate in front of one of the kids.

I learned lots of new things on our European vacation and one of them was defenestration.  Ever heard of that word?  When the Czechs got fed up with a politician, they literally threw them out of the window. Raef is reenacting the time when two unfortunate Catholic priest/politicians got chucked out of this very window, which was the catalyst that led to the Thirty Years' War, which lasted about 30 years!

There were guards all over the castle grounds, as this is the seat of the actual government. I wonder if all government offices are now in the basement, just be safe? They had similar abandoned pill boxes in Vienna and Raef asked if they were teleporters.  I love it.  If only they were and we could have teleported from Vienna to Prague, but alas.

You know I had to throw in a picture of some stained-glass. We saw loads of it and I loved it all.  This one is actual fairly modern, only about 100 years old and can be found in St. Vitus Cathedral on the Castle Quarter. I think my kids' eyes started going cross-eyed having to look at all the stained-glass.

This is the view from the Castle Quarter, in a bathroom, that Rick Steves said had a great view. He was right, huh?

On the back side of the Castle Quarter is the Golden Lane, a row of very small cottage row houses that housed working people, like goldsmiths and taylors.  This particular cottage, #22, was where Franz Kafka lived for a short time. Maybe I will try to read one of his books sometime.

To finish out our castle tour, we decided to torture the kids with one more museum for the day. It was the Lobcowicz Palace and it had some super-cool stuff in it, with a sweet audio guide actually done by Mr. Lobcowicz himself. One of the highlights of our entire trip was seeing this old stack of papers right here.

It is the original Eroica Symphony, written by Beethoven.  He had originally dedicated it to Napoleon, but angrily changed his mind when he found out Napoleon decided to be emperor. Instead, he dedicated the song to Joseph Lobcowicz and it is probably one of the most famous pieces of music ever written, like, evah!  And there it is, the actually pieces of paper that Beethoven wrote on, himself.  It gave me chills. Oh, and next to it is an original Haydn score, as well as a little Mozart piece...all originals.

I didn't even realize this, but the picture here with the statue and the building is the same picture they used on the front of the guide book. My extremely observant child, Raef (or was it Zach?) pointed it out to me.  Hence, we had to get a picture.

You see what I mean?

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On Tuesday, we finally were able to see the Jewish Quarter.  The first synagogue we toured was compelling. Every wall was covered in names of the Czechoslovakian victims of the Holocaust.  Before the war, the country was 1/3 Jewish, 1/3 Czech, and 1/3 German.  The Nazis killed almost every single Jew. I think only about 5% survived.  The victims names are written on the walls.  You weren't allowed to take pictures, so I did a sneaky picture.  If you look closely you can see the names and the dates, and every death date is between 1941-1945.  Franz Kafka's sisters were all exterminated.

There was also a moving display of children's art upstairs. The children were prisoners at Terezin and all were exterminated, except for a very few.  It made me sad.

Okay, moving on.  As Zach would implore, no more sad stuff!

The cemetery was crazy.  Jews were only allowed one cemetery in the city and it got pretty darn crowded after 200 years.  They piled bodies 8-10 deep, so that the ground is raised up quite a bit from the walkway. That is why the headstones are so crowded and skeewampus.

We had a little lunch in the Old Town Square so we could sit while watching the Astronomical Clock. It is the most charming thing and it just makes you smile.  The whole "show" lasts about 20 seconds, but we just loved it.  This clock is only about 600 years old. Pretty impressive, huh?

On Wednesday, we decided to get out of town and go 40 miles east to Kutna Hora.  I was a bit apprehensive about going due to major language barriers and a little fear of the unknown, but luckily because of our sheer luckiness, we were in luck and got there with no problems.

So what was the draw of Kutna Hora? It is a little medieval town with a few interesting features.  I love to see the churches and it can't hurt to get decorating inspiration.  I think I found it here.

I think skull and crossbones are the new black!

Yes, it was an entire church decorated in human bones, victims of the plague and Thirty Year's War (which lasted about 30 years).  Rinar is standing under an ultra-chic super-chandelier. Every bone in the human body is featured. Now that is what I call re-purposing!

Here is the view from another cathedral.  Another cathedral, but not our last one!

We ate Czech Italian that night. Did you know there was such a thing?  The main ingredient missing in Czech Italian is the tomato.  They don't put it on the pizza and are pretty stingy with it on the spaghetti sauce and lasagna. But nevertheless, the meal was tasty and not too outrageously expensive.

And as a side note, we did frequent McDonald's more than I would ever want to, but it was always in penance for the incessant museum/cathedral trips we subjected our kids to over the two weeks.

I had this brilliant idea to make our own art while on our trip.  Although it was hard to find something worthy, we finally settled on a sewer cover to make a rubbing. The sewer caps were actually quite charming.

I saved the best cathedral for last.  What, pray tell, do you think that black, shrivelly thing is?  Incense, petrified mistletoe?  Oh, no, no, no.  It is a human hand, of course.  According to legend, the schmuck tried to steal the holy relic (Madonna Pietatis) on the altar and his hand froze to it.  The only way to release it was to chop his arm off.  They then hung it over the door to warn all future would-be thieves.  I think this story has some merit.  The hand is clenched, after all.

We went back to the Astronomical Clock and took pictures of the tourists taking pictures. Fun, huh? Prague has huge swaths of tour groups and they all clump together at the top of the hour as Prague turns on its charm.

And in one of those spontaneous moments, Zach and Raef became street performers. We were walking past this guy and stopped for a minute to listen to his music.  He then offered the violin to us to have a turn. Raef immediately took it and played a little snippet of something, but had a little trouble since his true instrument is the viola.  Zach also played, with a bit of coaxing. He garnered a little crowd and someone even dropped a coin into the violinists' case.  Isn't that sweet?

Aahhh, the beauty of Communist architecture...

This street sign is now in the Museum of Communism, where it belongs.  After subjecting the kids to their very last museum, Zach had a little breakdown because of all the sad stuff.  He didn't want to see anymore sad stuff.  Well said, kid.

I kind of, sort of love this hanging sculpture. It is the Good King Wenceslas on his upside down horse.

We were able to tour the river from the paddle boat. I loved it because I had to do very little paddling.  Exuberant ten year-olds do come in handy once in a while.

This is a sculpture memorial to all of the victims of communism. It is very powerful.

The streets of Prague are all like this. I loved it. No asphalt anywhere. They didn't pave paradise and put up a parking lot, they cobblestoned it to death.

Raef on Wenceslas Square.

And finally it was time to go home.

I got to see the world. Well, a little part of it.  I thought it was beautiful. I loved Europe and I definitely want to see more of it.  But it will never even come close to America. I am grateful for my country and know that I live in the most incredible place on earth because water is free at restaurants...and it is cold...with ice!

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