Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Knitting as an act of Faith

Last week I finished a new knitting project - a summer wrap! When I purchased this beautiful cashmere merino wrap kit, I had visions of wearing it over a sundress during summer concerts as the evening chill descends on the mountains. The colors are lovely, the yarn feels great; it's simply a lovely piece.
As I started knitting, however, it became a little act of faith and hope that there will, once again, be sundresses and parties and concerts and get-togethers. Maybe not this summer, but someday.

And when those things do return, believe you me, I will be looking good in my handmade wrap!

Sunday, May 17, 2020

It All Takes Shape

The last two weeks have brought astounding construction progress. We just finished week five of construction and are so very pleased about how it's all coming together. Seeing walls come up, roof come in, and even a porch being built makes it all feel so real, and we love how it looks!

Between work and school from home, construction decisions, and all the work Steve has been orchestrating in the backyard, we have been a very busy family! Granted, we're not nearly as busy as the builders (and for that we are grateful!).

When we left you two weeks ago, we had a giant concrete slab.
And at the end of the week, we had trusses and plywood!
Here's the view from the back, including the framed-in sunroom and the start of the patio
Then at the start of this week, the roofing supplies arrived!
Here's the sunroom from the inside
And the completed roof from the top! I love the angles and interest this project is adding to our house!
On Wednesday we had a finished roof
And Friday brought our porch!

We love how it's all coming together - you can see that the overall outline is coming together so well! There's a bunch of unfun (that is, unspectacular) work coming in the next days - ordering siding, electrical work, etc. But I guess that after two such dramatic weeks, a quiet week is ok.
Oh, and as a bonus (as if the rest of this fabulous progress wasn't enough!), Steve has orchestrated a massive backyard reconstruction. He's pulled out a bunch of old bushes, done a ton of cleanup, and on Saturday we planted new bushes against half of the fence in the back yard. We're getting new fence on the other half in the next few weeks, and then more planting to come!

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Constructing Memories

We try to do all things with our own special style and flair. And since this construction project is, Lord willing, the biggest construction project we'll ever do, we knew we had to add our signature to it! I mean, to be fair there are lots of our own special touches (like a bike room!) but when we knew that we were going to have a whole palate of three truck's worth of concrete to play with, we started brainstorming how to make it ours.

We ended up deciding on two pieces of flair.

The first represents all of places that are special to our family:

  • Maryland (where Steve, Sam, and I were born)
  • Utah (our home for the last 20 years)
  • China (WanYing's birthplace)
  • Kazakhstan (Sasha's birthplace)
  • Mexico (home of Hogar de Amor and our spiritual second home)
The coins will sit right inside the door and they look awesome.

The second decoration (so far) is a pair of unicycle tracks in the bike room.

We thought it was too risky to have somebody ride a unicycle across wet cement, so our first plan was to rig a unicycle to a board and reach as far as we could to make a squiggle in the cement.

It worked remarkably well, especially when the concrete amigos (who were so good-natured about the whole thing!) lent us some pads for Steve to walk on to extend the markings even further.

At the urging of the concrete amigos, we then roused Ben from bed at the crack of 11:30 to ride through the concrete to make another line. We had originally thought this wouldn't be a good idea because:
a) riding a unicycle through wet concrete
b) we didn't really want tracks in the mud room, only in the bike room

But, apparently b was an unfounded concern because when we do the epoxy floor in the mud room the track won't be visible and a was an unfounded concern because Ben.

So, ride he did!

And both tracks look simply marvelous. I love these little touches that make the whole project uniquely ours.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Running Away

In these times of limited travel and lots of together time, I've increasingly found myself needing regular "running away" times. Not just taking a walk during a Zoom call or a family bike ride, but little times every day that are escapes. I usually run away by bike (no surprise) and it does me a world of good.

A couple of weeks ago we were craving a bigger family escape. We reviewed our options and the closures and recommendations throughout the state and eventually settled on heading into the desert to camp. We were a little nervous that it would be too busy to be able to effectively social distance while camping, but we were relieved to find warm sun and wide-open spaces in the San Rafael swell.

It was glorious! We hiked until the dogs had to be lifted into the van at night, we climbed and explored, we played tons of board games. We reveled in the sheer normalcy of it all - no masks, no people to avoid, just our family in the desert. It was a blessed escape.

Here's what our grand escape looked like:
We were excited to find that one of our favorite camping areas in the San Rafael Swell near Goblin Valley State Park was empty.

Of course, we couldn't go into the state park, but once we saw that the area was so quiet we decided to head to one of our favorite hikes, Little Wild Horse Canyon, to see if it was empty enough to hike safely.  As you can imagine, quarters get close in a slot canyon, so we didn't want to hike it if the trailhead looked busy. But there were only a few cars at the trailhead and we were blessed by a bonus hike in one of our very favorite places (we assumed we'd have to skip Little Wild Horse this time because of crowds, but, hooray!).

The next day we headed to our second favorite hike in the area, Crack Canyon. There's never anybody at this hike, so we were confident we'd be able to enjoy the canyon in peace.

We were having such good time that we thought we'd try striking camp and driving to a different area for another night. We had never been in the area of San Rafael Swell closer to I-70 and thought we would give it a try.

The roads were a little harrowing, but Rainy made it in grand style and with only a few new scratches as war wounds earned on the adventure.

We headed to Eagle Canyon Arch and happily hiked the ATV trail to a picnic under the arch. It's so fun that our girls are old enough to do 5+ mile hikes in a day and not even feel it! The dogs, however, did not fare so well. Apparently our old dog truly is getting old, because after 3 days of hikes and scrambles every day she was definitely feeling it that evening! Poor Chorney - at 11 she's slowing down a bit, but she's still faster than ChenXing, who has never really mastered the art of hiking or climbing or moving gracefully. We had to push that dog's butt up so many rock scrambles that we bought a belay harness for next time so at least we can lift her more easily next time!

We found a beautiful deserted pulloff for camping and enjoyed more board games and took on the challenging of burning all of our remaining wood! This led to lovely fireside snuggles and staying up to seeing the amazing desert night sky.  It was the perfect end to a wonderful escape and we drove home tired, dirty, happy, and grateful to be able to enjoy such beautiful places.

Now, to plan the next runaway!

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Today I Caught a Parakeet

There's an inarguable sameness to these coronavirus suppression days. There's a rhythm to the days, but man oh man does one day run into the next. In my 4:30 meeting this afternoon we had a straight-up argument about what day it was and between the six of us in the meeting there were three different opinions about which day it was. The only thing we all knew for certain was that it wasn't Friday yet. And we're the lucky ones with jobs that are secure and can be completed remotely!

Anyway - the monotony was fabulously broken this afternoon by a parakeet visitation!

I'm no bird expert, but I'm pretty sure that parakeets are not native to Utah (this fact was later corroborated by Google). But this afternoon while Steve was trimming the apple tree this handsome feathered guy (gender actually unknown, I wasn't about to Google that) came over and landed on our treehouse, which is currently being demolished (this was an add-on to the tree trimming project).

Steve's instincts were right-on. He first took a photo and then went for the insect net that, for reasons I can't fathom, we still have from my insect collecting phase in middle school. By the time he returned, Mr. Parakeet was gone.

A little later I came outside to ask Steve a question or to distract myself from work or something, and there was a parakeet sitting out on the ground, happily pecking away at dirt or whatever (I cannot overemphasize my lack of knowledge about birds. I'm pretty happy I even correctly identified this guy as a parakeet).

With my own cat-like reflexes I motioned emphatically to Greg, the construction guy (he's basically a part of the family now) and after both of us standing around looking at the parakeet, Steve came over and volunteered the net-retrieval fact. At this point, our task became clear - we had to catch this thing.

It turns out that getting a net over a completely tame parakeet is actually remarkably unchallenging. He pretty much just kept pecking at the ground with the net over him.

But said parakeet was more resistant to us picking him up to put him in a box and he flew away - all the way to our neighbors' deck.

At this point I was on a mission and with wildly wildernessy skills I tracked the bird to the neighbors' (not really that impressive, he only flew like 30 feet) and climbed up to their deck to recapture him. This was every bit as easy as the first time - he really didn't care at all about having a net over him.

Still, I was feeling really proud of myself and took this triumphant selfie. This is my version of taking a photo of the lion I shot on the savanna... except... this was a salvation attempt and legal (so far as I know).

Anyway, at this point the full gravity of having a parakeet in a box settled on us. So, we did what any normal American family would do - we texted the neighbors and made "Found Bird" to hang on the stop signs around our house. We also moved him to a bigger box and Googled what parakeets eat.

So far our attempts to find the parakeet's owners have come up null, so tomorrow we'll call the humane society and figure out what one does with a caught parakeet. 

WanYing spent the evening upgrading his box - first it was the bigger box. Then she decided he needed more food so he got a wedge of orange and some lettuce. Then he needed more light so she put Saran Wrap over the top (this one was kind of my fault, I suggested a skylight). Then he tried to fly through the Saran Wrap so she then used roughly 800 yards of clear packing tape reinforcing the skylight. Now he's on the dining room table with a cork board over the skylight so that the cat can't eat him tonight. Oh, and Steve poked air holes in the new box... although I'm fairly sure that boxes aren't airtight... but, still, asphyxiating the bird that I captured so magnificently would be a bit of a let down, so I'm supportive of the air holes.

So, that was our Tuesday Thursday Wednesday night. I guess my complaint that every day feels like the days before is for void today!

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Construction Update - Firm Foundations

It's been a busy week-and-a-half here on the Morningstar homestead. In the last week, the garage and patio have been demolished, most of the cement has been removed, the footers were and poured, giant piles of dirt were amassed and then distributed, and we're looking forward to having floors poured next week!

As I reflect on the timing of this project, on one hand this is truly terrible timing. The project is loud and dirty and disruptive during a time when the last thing we all need in our lives is more disruption!

But noise, dirt, and chaos are only part of the picture. In these times when it's so hard to keep a rhythm and when every day feels a whole lot like the day before, it's been really cool to have a project to watch and participate in that's changing every day. It's entertaining to watch the crews working (I'm sure they enjoy our totally-not-creepy constant staring at them through the windows). It's fun to see progress. It's fun to new learn things about how construction projects work. It's super duper fun to have concrete trucks and pumpers arrive at your house. It's fun to stand in the new foundations and dream about how you're going to lay out all that new space.

So, yeah, I'm grateful for our new foundations.

The giant pile of dirt provided much diversion
I think we actually had her convinced we were putting in a moat
Footer forms part 1
In comes the cement! I particularly like the pump truck guy standing on the dirt mound with his strap-on remote control. The very picture of power.
Here comes concrete truck #2!
The second layer of forms gets filled
The forms are off... the giant dirt pile remains
And here's the current state! Dirt piles gone (some backfill, some hauled away) and ready to start prepping for the next concrete step!
And, yes, the garage is going to be huge


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