Monday, June 29, 2009

McEuen Family Reunion '09

For those that didn't make it: we missed you! For those who made it: it was great seeing you!

I give you a highlighted video of the McEuen Reunion of 2009. I'm sorry I didn't include every great moment of all of you. Thanks for the memories, and we'll see you in 2011 hosted by Aunt Karen!


video

Monday, June 22, 2009

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Boise be cool! But keep in on the DL. True Dat!

Even though I am a born-and-bred Idahoan, I know relatively little about my capital town. I grew up in Heyburn, a small town about three hours to the east of Boise.

I think I can count on one hand the number of times my family visited Boise. The summer of my junior year in high school, I attended Girls' State, but we only had one day to spend in Boise at the capital. The rest of the time was spent in Nampa at Northwest Nazarene College's campus. Note: Nampa is not Boise.

There was another time when some friends and I decided to do our school shopping there, because we were going to be seniors, and we wanted to bring out all the trends. Stove-piped pants were a definite must. But I only made it to the mall, and granted, the Boise mall is pretty cool, but a mall does not make a town.

Probably the most memorable Boise visit was when my mom was attending BSU during the summers to get her master's degree. One summer she was there, Idaho was celebrating its Centennial. My mom took us to the lazer light show and fireworks in downtown. I was 14. I think I had to help cart around one of my younger siblings who would have been the baby at the time. (Kulani thinks my family tells time according to who the baby was during any given story. "Well, let's see. Hetty was the baby at the time so it had to be around 1984.") It was pretty cool, but it was dark and my feet were tired. My hips were probably tired too from holding a younger sibling. I didn't actually "see" much of Boise.

But I never had a hugely favorable opinion of Boise. My family was a Utah family. We watched KSL news. (Our community had three news stations: Idaho Falls, Twin Falls, and KSL. Trust me: KSL was by far the best produced.) All of our vacations were directed southernly instead of westernly. I always had the opinion that Boise was a town "butt" rockers would like. You know, the kind of person who isn't ashamed to wear a Budweiser T-shirt that has scantily clad women holding a cold Bud. And to be honest, they still don't have very good radio stations, with the big exception of classic rock. They have some great classic rock stations.

But my opinion has changed thanks to our most recent trip to Boise Town (as my friend Laura likes to call it). We traveled to Boise so Kulani could compete in the Boise 70.3 Ironman. If you have't been to Boise in say 10 years, it's changed a ton (or I never really got to know the town in the first place--probably the latter)!

Firstly, downtown Boise is no longer called "downtown Boise." It's called "BoDo." In the heart of BoDo is the Grove, where a big walking-level water feature is located. On Saturdays, the Grove is host to a Farmer's Market similar to what most major cities have nowadays. On Wednesday and Saturday nights the Grove usually hosts bands as well.

The girls on a bench in BoDo:


Much of my information comes from my dear friend Kara, who moved to Boise right after high school, and was the first of my friends to purchase a house--in Boise. Kara married her high school sweetheart Patt, and they have two kids: a feisty cutey girl and a toddler, snuggly boy. Kara and I played basketball together from 7th grade until juniors in high school, when we both got cut from the team. Ouch! We started out as the only girls even playing basketball, but in time, others caught up with our mad skills--or the coaches just didn't see our hidden potential.

Kara is also very kind and compassionate and just plain cool. I enjoyed visiting with her at her house. But I forgot to take a picture of her and Patt. Instead, because my yard has been fixated on my mind, I took a picture of her yard, because her husband is a landscaper extraordinaire and he has done a bang-up job fixing up their yard.


Kara has witnessed the changes in Boise and knows what a great town it is, but like all good Idahoans, she told me to keep it a secret: don't want outsiders overrunning the place. So I'm posting it on this blog where the five of you will also be sworn to secrecy.

What I also found surprising was what a hopping nightlife exists in BoDo. I haven't seen the likes of it in Salt Lake City or Portland. Because Boise is made up of short blocks, walking to various locations is quite easy. Many bars and clubs had lines of people waiting to get in.

And it's a super friendly biking town, as they had plaques that said the city was awarded as a "super friendly biking town." But some of the people on bikes were a bit surly and pushy, as if they had more rights to the sidewalks than people on foot. But I saw a bike that would have been welcome on the Pioneer Trail. A big basket sat in front of the bike, and in the big basket was a sleeping baby in a car seat. Western ho!

One of the very first things most Boiseans I know like to brag about in their town is the green belt trail that runs along the Boise River (which runs through the middle of Boise), and rightfully so. The trail is paved and runs for a good 10 miles on either side of the river. Many iron bridges run across the river, and unique parks are dotted all along it. One such park was the Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial, that had quotes engraved on a cement wall from leaders around the world. They even included a quote from President Gordon B. Hinckley.



The girls at the Anne Frank Memorial:




The girls at one of the walking bridges over the Boise River:



Much of the run during the 70.3 race took place along the river trail, with a long finish shoot up 8th Street. People lined the entire finish shoot, which made the race quite magical. It was probably one of the best triathlon races I've ever seen.

We stayed in the Owyhee Plaza on Main and 11th Street. The girls were great troopers, as the race was rained on from start to almost finish. And it wasn't a little Northwestern sprinkle: it was desert rain that comes down in buckets. We came equipped with rain panchos, towels, and blankets. And making a quick stop into Coldstone also helped brighten their mood.


Another thing I loved about Boise, and most Idahoans I think can relate, is that the street leading to the capital is lined with little plaques from all the different counties. Idahoans KNOW their counties. A little county mark is on each license plate, and in 4th grade, all Idahoans are taught a little rap to help them memorize each of the county names. "Ada is the first with our capital town. Adam's seven devils go straight up and down. Then 10 counties that start with B: Bannock, Barelake, Bennewah, three. Bingham, Blaine, Boise, Bonner, Bountiful, Boundary, Butte make 10..." Sorry for any spelling mistakes; my mind just remembers the rhyme not how to spell. Also unique to Boise is that many of the streets are named after other cities and famous Idahoans. My friend Kara lives close to Malad street. It's like a big welcome mat for Idahoans. I'm sorry if this all sounds boastful: Idahoans are terribly proud of their state. Perhaps you can't possibly understand why, but believe me, those who know, know.

It reminds me of a sister-in-law who was very nervous about moving to Idaho after her husband finished his residency. She'd say to me, "I'm sure it will be fine, but it's ... Idaho, you know?" Uh, I don't know. I think she was trying to say that being from Idaho is like being from Hicktown U.S.A. Kara would have me encourage you to keep believing that notion. My sister-in-law later changed her tune after living there for five years. Like a Smiths tune: you learn to love it, and then you can't get it out of your system.

Lilia proudly holding up her "Beef" sign she made for Dad. The race was sponsored by the Beef Council, and they had Beef girls passing around signs to make and samples of beef jerky.


Kulani and the girls before the race waiting for the bus to take him up to Lucky Peak Resorvoir:


Girls exhausted in the van:

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Judge not, lest ye be judged by a preteen

Earlier today I made a quick stop at the local Wal-Mart for some cereal and other sundries. I gathered my purchases and proceeded to the checkout line.

A girl between the ages of 10 and 12 stood in front of me in line. She had on a dancing outfit, her hair was pulled back into a bun, and her skin sparkled with glittery make-up. My imperfect mind instantly made a judgment about the girl: probably a spoiled little dancer girl who's never had to do a day of work in her life. Of course, I never said it out loud. I'm one who believes that you can think whatever you want, but acting on those thoughts is another story.

The girl turned around, looked me in the eyes, and said to me, "You have really pretty hair."

My self-absorbed judgmental thoughts immediately fled from my mind.

I blushed, and answered, "Thank you so much! That's very sweet of you to say."

I kid you not, it was probably the best, most sincere compliment I've had in a long time. I teared up while reaching into my cart and putting my items on the register treadmill.

Next time, my thoughts will be fixed on returning the compliment to sparkling girls and not-so-sparkling girls. Heaven knows a little less judgment and more compliments is what girls and women of today need. Thank you, spoiled little rich girl, for your example.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Oddity

This is Kulani, so direct your hate mail to me not Cindy. And also, fair warning.

Cindy and I have had many discussions about doing what you love versus doing what you like or don't hate, but that provides a decent living. I was raised in a family in which the priorities for work were that 1) it allows you to provide a good living for the family 2) its honest and 3) you can do it long-term, which means that you don't hate it. Patent law is not my passion. I enjoy it, but I love to ride bikes, fish, and cook. While some people make a living cooking, I know I don't have the skill set to be a successful restaurateur nor the talent to fish or ride for a living. So, I write patents.

The other night Cindy and I were at the Rooster Rehearsal Dinner. Joseph and Colton of P712 fame, and do make a living doing what they love, were at our table and we were talking about work. Joseph asked me if like what I do, and I answered honestly that I do like what I do.

As Joseph thought on my response, he reaffirmed his thought, "You have to do what you love."

My response was less than appropriate, "Unless, of course, you're a pedophile."

Saturday, June 6, 2009

My Long-Winded Gardening Story

Each year I try to tackle a new project in my yard. My yard is basically just a mountain. I'd like to make it into a molehill. When we bought our property, we didn't think about the whole building-a-house-on-a-mountain. We just saw that it was the cheapest property in the area we wanted. Being first-time home buyers, we didn't really grasp the difference between a flat piece of property and a sloped property.
When we inspected the property after the house was being built, we started to realize the work we had in front of us. When we walked to the back of the house, we were greeted by a 15-feet wall of dirt. We invested another $7,000 to have the builders put in some retaining rocks in the back of the house.

The first year we lived in our house, we paid someone to move dirt from the back of our yard to the front of our yard, and Kulani and his brothers and a few friends built a retaining wall in the front.

To have dirt moved: $2300.
Retaining wall built by ourselves and cheap family and friend labor: $1500.

(Forgive me: I'm a numbers person. I like to know how much stuff costs. I record these numbers not to brag; because believe you me, I know people spend A LOT more on their landscaping. If anything, this will prove how cheap I am. But for those thinking of doing their own landscaping, I think the numbers will be helpful.)


Later that year we also paid someone else to put in grass and a sprinkling system. Well worth the money, because I don't think Kulani and I could have ever done it by ourselves, and you can only take advantage of so much friend and family labor.


Landscaping cost: $6,000.

The next year me and my little brother Ed worked on getting the sides of our house done. The landscapers never finished one strip of land that they started. Luckily, they did put in all the watering tubes: I just had to figure out how to connect it all. I bought some topsoil and paid someone to do the hydroseed. Me and Ed put in the sprinkler tops. A neighbor had a skeetsteerer and carted all the topsoil up my hill. My brother-in-law Kuhia figured out how to connect the sprinklers with my system.

Strip of grass total cost: About $600

On the other side of the garage, we wanted to put cement. We hired a guy and paid him half the money, but then he never came to do the job. $1200 down the toilet. So instead, me and my little brother Ed covered the area with mulch. The neighbor to the right of us assumed the whole area was our responsibility, due to a long story that involved the developers in the area taking out the surveyor's stake, because they had to redo parts of the sidewalk concrete. Luckily, Kulani's dad is a surveyor, and he put the mark back in the ground, so my neighbor could better see where her property started and our property ended. At any rate, we still haven't done much to this side except the mulch. But my neighbor hasn't done anything to her side yet either. Next year we will likely put in the cement driveway.

Cost of driveway so far: $1700.


In the picture above near the bottom, you can see some irrigation boxes. When we put in all the mulch, one of my irrigation boxes had no cover. I didn't think it was a big deal to have it covered or not, because (a) I'm stupid and (b) first-time home owner. Oh, it is important. So much debree and gunk got in there, that I could no longer turn the secondary watering system off or on with my long turnkey (my turn-off switch is approximately seven feet underground inside a 2-inch PVC pipe). Because I wanted the ability to turn my secondary water off and on, I had to dig to where the switch is at. It took me at least three hours of digging to get to the bottom. I made sure to have not one, but two, covers on that thing. I don't want to have to do that again. The importance of having the water turned off will be clear later when I explain my garden.

In May, I fixed my planting beds. I bought some plants and bark mulch, which I haven't had in the front of our house because I've been working on other projects, and because the watering was always a little hooey. The planting beds still need work, but it's a good start. Total cost: $50-$100.




So there's this small PVC pipe that was hidden behind a very large rock at the side of my house. I knew it would give me access to a water supply and was put there by the landscapers years ago, but I didn't know if it would be connected to my sprinklers. My parents were visiting last weekend, so I solicited my dad's help in helping me figure it out.

Using a crowbar, we pushed the rock far enough away from the PVC pipe to saw off the top.(After turning off the water source, of course. That's why I needed access to that darned on/off switch.) I turned the water back on manually using the on/off key, and nothing came out. So then I tried turning it on via the electric-watering gridbox. Bingo! Water that's connected to my sprinkler system! So I decided to build my garden on my retaining wall steps, so if we happen to leave town, the automatic sprinklers will still water my garden.

I glued a longer piece of PVC connector pipe to it, then connected the funny pipe to that. I drug the funny pipe around to my garden boxes, which are a sort-of "square-foot" gardening technique, but I built the garden boxes with stuff I'd collected over the years: old railroad ties, some wood the Mitchell's (my neighbors) didn't want anymore, and some leftover retaining wall bricks. I don't think my soil content is great this year, as all I did was use manure mulch and till it into my rocky ground (using a tiller my neighbor Ellen let me borrow, bless her heart). I'm afraid I don't have enough actual soil. Anyone out there know how to help me amend my soil post planting?


The water source. I have a whole new appreciation for old-world aquaducts and whole civilizations being built around water sources.

My mom brought me some raspberry starts from her garden, but they went into shock almost as soon as we put them into the ground. I've been praying the little fellas survive.

Another picture of my garden.


I've had many problems figuring out the right fixtures, etc. for my garden. I found this handy little contraption that's supposed to ease the flow of water to 25 psi. Before finding that, the water pressure would blow off my tubing.


A view of the garden from the upstair bedroom--look to the bottom left. You can also get a nice view of the work I have in front of me. Yes, that's all my yard and not the neighbor's. My goal is to take out a sagebrush bush a day with my pic axe. (It's the only tool that can get rid of those eyesores.) My dad says I should keep the sage brush, because they're "perrty."

Cost of garden and various watering features (drips, sprayers, etc.) and multiple trips to BJ's Plumbing Supply for the right connectors (I kept trying to fix 1/2" connector pipes with my not-quite-1/2" tubing. Turns out there are connectors for those smaller tubings.): $100.

My next project to be done in July or thereabouts is to install my pavers. I bought these pavers off of Craigslist from a family in Alpine. I hauled each of those pavers from their yard to my house via my multi-use and versatile mini-van (a mom's best tool). It took four trips. It was a very good workout. Perhaps I could get some cheap labor by marketing my weeding as a chance to "workout." Join my outdoor gym now for free!

Cost of pavers off of Craigslist: $140. Future cost of sand: $100-$150.

A Celebratory Dinner

Kulani's found a new friend nearly 10 years his junior who could pretty much be a long-lost cousin. Pat and Kulani have a lot in common. They both like to ride bikes of all varieties. They both like uncommon music. And they both LOVE to cook and eat. Because Pat works for the same firm as Kulani, they are frequent lunchtime adventurers always looking to achieve greater culinary appreciations.

Recently, Pat was accepted to the University of Utah Medical School. His wife, Chelsea, also birthed their first child a few months ago. Kulani thought it the perfect excuse to try to cook the best meal he's ever cooked for Pat and Chelsea.

Kulani thought about the menu for literally months. He'd run things by me to see if the menu sounded good. Anything Kulani cooks is good, so I wasn't the best for input as all I ever said was, "That sounds really, really good!" I'm like the friend you can't trust when wondering if an outfit looks good on you: I'll always say it does--and I sincerely believe it. (Unless, of course, you're trying to pull off wearing a tube top. Icksnay on the ubetoptay. Why does saying it in pig-latin always soften the blow?)

Since I knew this was a special night for Pat (and for Kulani because he was so excited for the dinner), I decided to do a little spring cleaning in my kitchen. I cleaned out the pantry, the fridge, the kitchen junk drawers, the oven. I worked for three days in preparation for the dinner. I put out a "Congratulations" sign. The girls love it when I do little things like that, and I ask them to help. And I even decorated our BYU-lovin' table in red, black, and white. One of my favorite meals of my life was at my friend Carol's house when we were advancing from junior high to high school, and her mother decorated the table with our high school's colors. I remember feeling so special that her mom would go to that much trouble to make us excited for the adventure of high school.

But for the actual dinner, my assignment was easy: make creme brulee and Amy from Chicago's salad. Our friend Amy, who is actually from Highland but lived in Chicago for a time, and that's how I now define her on the WWW, makes the best salad.

Kulani, had all the hard work. All-day Saturday he prepped. As designated sous chef/dishwasher, I just tried to keep up with the dishes behind him.

We decided to also invite my brother-in-law Mahana and his wife to the dinner as well. Mahana is a graduate of the U of U Med School, so we figured he could give Pat some pointers, if needs be. Plus, Mahana was in town, so we told him to join the party.

We'd try doing a multi-course dinner when we lived in BYU married-student housing. Our mistake was that we served gargantuin portions for each course (and we were much poorer, so one of the courses was potatoes). By course two, we were basically done. This time, we kept the portions small.

Appetizer - Tuna Sashimi with Fresh Ponzu, Tuna Tartar with Wasabi Aoli
Salad - Amy's Salad (Spinach, Bacon, Walnuts, Feta, and Poppyseed Dressing)
Bread - Whole Grain Bread, Vanilla Whipped Honey-Butter (Pat and Chelsea made it.)
Fish - Garlic Shrimp, Sticky Rice, Fresh Ginger Soda
Palette Cleanser - Fresh Fruit Smoothie
White Meat - Apple Cider Babyback Ribs, Potato Salad with Homemade Lemon Mayo
Entree - Filet, Potato Waffle with Fresh Horseradish Cream and Port Pan Sauce, Seasonal Vegetables
Dessert - Vanilla and Chocolate Creme Brulee


We were all too full when we were done with the entree so we skipped the cheese course, which was supposed to be Kerrygold Dubliner Cheese with D'Anjou Pears and went straight to dessert. (The above two paragraphs I borrowed from Kulani's blog.)

Whilst doing the dishes, Pat says, "After having a good meal, Chelsea and I like to discuss it in sort-of a 'post-game' manner. What was your favorite part of the dinner?" That's the difference between a true foodie and someone who just sort-of likes food. If you can actually have a conversation about the dinner even after the food is being nicely digested by God's hand-built sewer system, you know you have a passion for food.

I am still dreaming about that meal. Pat and Chelsea stayed after and did ALL the dishes to show their gratitude. It was very sweet of them. We could not have had two more appreciative guests.

By the way, I think my favorite part of the meal was still those ribs. He used Ben from Chicago's recipe, but because of smaller portions, he used babyback ribs. Oh ... my ... goodness!
My apologies about not having pictures of each course. I was just so excited about eating that I forgot to bring out the camera. But I did get a picture of Pat and Chelsea doing the dishes. I'm sure they'll appreciate this.