Monday, July 28, 2014

Slide the City

Say what? A 1000 foot waterslide running down Main Street in Salt Lake City? Really?
It warranted further research and a viewing of their promotional video.
But yes, a padded slip and slide running down Main Street from the Capitol Building down past the Conference Center and dead-ending at the stop light on North Temple leading to the Main Street Plaza.
Yep, yes and and a big ol' heck yeah! Count me in!

Bryan and Lilian opted out. (Lilian solely based on the fact that there was a height restriction and she fell a few inches beneath it. Story of her life.) Rebekah had a date for the slide and therefore went earlier in the day. But Brandon, Julianne and I headed downtown our swimsuits with inflatable tubes and squirt guns in tow to slide the city.

It was hot, hot, hot. And the lines were long. Apparently going earlier in the day would've been wise. So I found myself waiting the line in a crouch when I would get lightheaded, so as to not pass out. Summer heat. does a number on me. But hey, once on that slide, I cooled right off. And oh, what fun! I giggled all the way down.

A little bizarre to be standing around in a swimsuit, in the middle of Main Street in downtown Salt Lake City...with the temple as a backdrop, but hey...what an adventure, yes?

I got a kick out of watching all the well-dressed hordes of people heading to the Conference Center for the Tabernacle Choir concert. The surprised looks on their faces as they got closer, heard the blaring music and gazed up at that crazy water slide...and then when they all pulled out their cell phones to get pictures of the crazy, summer water party. It made me laugh.

Sunday, July 20, 2014


I don't know when, I don't know how...but at some point I think we must have angered the water gods something fierce.

One day in late April I was driving home from picking up Julianne at a rehearsal when I got a panicked call from Rebekah informing me that there was water gushing into Julianne's room through the window. She was frantically trying to save Julianne's belongings that were on the floor and the dresser that was under said window...and stuff towels into the window sill to staunch the flow. I instructed her to run outside and see if by chance a hose had been turned on and left running...we still weren't sure where the water was gushing from.

Bryan and I got home about the same time and between the two of us and the next door neighbor Rebekah had called in for reinforcements, we ran around from inside to out and back in again determining the source of the water so we could stop it, and bailing the standing water from the window well.

Turns out the city irrigation water had been turned on that day. The pressure of the water had been stronger than in past years and had pushed its way through with such force that one of the T pipes in the box near Juilanne's window had burst.
What a soggy mess. We called a disaster recovery company and they showed up with specialized water hoses and fans. The water had reached every corner of Julianne's room, into Rebekah's closet on the other side of the wall and a little way into the hall. Furniture got relocated into various rooms in the basement...mostly the family room, carpet got pulled up so the pad could be discarded, the water hose sucked as much water as possible out of that saturated carpet, and multiple fans were turned on to dry things out. All of this while Julianne bravely picked through her wet and soggy books, journals, ticket stubs and programs and other such belongings that been on the dresser or on the floor of her bedroom. And did I mention all the laundry to be done? Because Julianne's room had not been clean at the time and many of the contents of her closet were on the floor rather than hanging up as they should have been....

It's a story I have heard countless times from others....who hasn't had some kind of water damage in their homes at one time or another? Maybe it was just our turn? (I'll maybe leave out mention of the basement flood we had living in Magna....because after all, that was a really long time ago and maybe we were just due.)

But then last Monday Julianne made a horrifying discovery in the backyard man cave. She went out to row, she said. Who knew it would end up being so literal? Four inches of standing water throughout the entire building. Gymnastics mats floating like rafts, camping gear soaking up water, baseboards warping. Luckily we did not have to deal with carpet this time...the flooring is colored and polished concrete. (Though it will have to be re-finished.)

Julianne called her Dad immediately and then came in to inform me of the disaster. We discovered that the water had come from the field behind us. The farmer had been trying to deal with some dry spots near our fence and had left the sprinklers on all night long. He and his wife were horrified when we informed them of what had happened. They hustled over and spent quite a bit of time helping us with the sump pump and the clean-up inside. And it did take all day. Because not only did we have to haul out all of those (extremely heavy) water logged mats, camping equipment and other soggy items to dry out on the back lawn...but then pump out the water. We pumped about 1/3 of of it straight out of the front door and onto the dry spots in our own lawn. We then dropped the pump into the sump pump hole and shot it out under the back fence, through the farmers original sprinkler pipes and out further back into his field.
Bryan said it was an opportunity....when asked why the first thing he did after arriving home to survey the mess was to take a few shots into the water at the backstop.

But it took a lot of time to pump out the water because it turns out the floor of the building is not exactly flat. And so though we have two drains....the water was pooling in various low areas throughout the room and we spent a lot of effort pushing the water towards the drains, and continuously making sure those drains didn't get clogged with odds and end detritus floating in the water.

We ran fans all night long. But woke to find more puddles the next day....left over water that had collected under the building and was still finding ways to seep up through the floor. We spent the next few days checking every few hours that the pump was indeed on and working, and mopping up any extra water.

I kind of feel that we've had more than our fair share of flooding and water damage over the past few months. But if that weren't enough....the same night as our man cave flood, our kitchen sink stopped up and started leaking into the cupboard below. And when we went to visit Rebekah's soon-to-be new apartment in Logan last week, we found the carpet pulled back and fans blowing there because of a slight flood due to someone leaving on a hose just outside her basement apartment window.

Anyone know what kind of chants or prayers to say, dances to perform or gifts to bring to appease the water gods? Because I am so done! 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sweating in honor of the founding fathers

Rebekah had a double shift at Lagoon-a-Beach and neither Brandon nor Bryan had any desire to sit around in the heat so I saved seats for only Lilian and myself for the annual 4th of July parade. Julianne hitched a ride but was actually in the parade as part of the high school junior committee, so it was just the two of us girls. And boy howdy, it really was hot. I absolutely adore Independence Day...but sometimes I wish it was not in the middle of the summer, you know? How about the 4th of May? Or the 4th of October?

But then again, apparently the founding fathers during their debates on independence were equally hot, having to deal with the insane heat of summer in Philadelphia.
(Ever watch the musical "1776"? It's delightful, of course. One of my favorites. One of the songs is called "Sit Down, John"...John being John Adams. He's trying to bully everyone into voting yes for independence and everyone else is annoyed because not only is John Adams "obnoxious and disliked"'s just too hot.)

It's ninety degrees, have mercy John, please
It's hot as hell, in Philadelphia.

Someone ought to open up a window...

No, No, No, 
Too many flies, Too many flies
But it's hot as hell, in Philadelphia

Someone ought to open up a window
Can't we compromise here?

So maybe in honor of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock and the rest of the founding fathers, we can sweat it out in July here in Utah as they did all those many years ago in Philly, while we celebrate our great country. Or at least that's the spin I'm going to put on it.

We here in Kaysville are hugely and unabashedly proud of our Davis High marching band.
Remind me why I came out early the night before to save front row spots for the parade? At least I had a chair...

One unique thing about the Kaysville parade is that at the end, it turns into a water parade. Notice is given so as to allow any spectators wanting to stay dry ample time to get out of the way. But the majority stick around to greet the water trucks and it turns into a full on water fight street party. It's ridiculous amounts of fun. Lilian was drenched, I wad drenched...I got hit so hard with a stream of water that it blew my sunglasses right off my face. That's one way to beat the summer 4th of July heat, yes? I bet the founding fathers would approve.

Julianne's Junior Committee was in the water fight portion of the parade. Unfortunately they ran out of water before they hit the end of the route. Oh well...she had a good time.

Higher Ground had been invited to sing at the Kaysville 4th of July carnival so later that afternoon Kami, Julie and I did a 30 minute show. This was our second year performing for the 4th (last year I came home from a camping trip to do the gig). But also our last performance with the three of us for awhile. Julie left the next day for a year of traveling the country with her family...a big RV adventure. It seemed appropriate that our last show together was one filled with patriotic fare...a send off of sorts, as Julie heads off to explore our great nation. I think we all cried a little as we sang our last song, "God Bless America."

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

More Prague

St. Vitus Cathedral, the biggest and most important church in the Czech Republic, is located within the Prague Castle complex. And though we had seen it the day before (because really, how can you not..the thing is huge) it wasn't until the next day that we were really able to get up close and personal with it.

And the inside was every bit as incredible as the out. The stained-glass windows were especially wow.
The place was super crowded so really, could you ask for a better time to flash mob? So right there in the middle of the cathedral we gathered close together and started singing "Ave Maria." The sound lifted and swirled through the whole music is wont to do in acoustically grand places such as St. Vitus. Pretty quick we caught attention and passers-by were stopping to listen and take video. Well received as it was, we also sang "Lux Aurumque" as an encore of sorts, before deciding that maybe we'd pushed our luck far enough. As cool as the spectators thought it was, I'm not sure the cathedral powers-that-be were quite as thrilled....

And do you see the iPhone in my hand? I was planning to take a selfie of Linda and me...just waiting to finish singing the song. When going through my pictures a bit later I was surprised to find a selfie I hadn't intentionally or knowingly taken....
We were let loose to explore a bit after our flash mob experience, but rather than stay in the cathedral, Katie, Linda, Robby and I headed outside, through the castle complex and past the Golden Lane to find an art vendor that we had seen the day before. We had limited time and the vendor was further away than I had originally thought. But we bought a few paintings from the man and then realized we were going to seriously have to book it in order to make it back to the meeting place on time so as to not get left, or worse...publicly dressed down by our tour guide, Nicole. So we ran. Do you know how difficult it is to run up hill, in a maxi skirt, on cobblestones? But we made it in time. Breathing heavily and with jello legs...but hey, we got our exercise for the day, yes? And I had an awesome painting of the Charles Bridge to show for it.

With the group back together we boarded the bus and headed to the Strahovsky Klaster Monastery. Up on the hillside, it gave us stunning views of the city below.

And this is a picture of Melissa and me climbing onto our big, pink(ish) luxury bus...our home away from home, Home Sweet know, just for reference and posterity sake and all of that.

Our concert in Prague was at the Church of St. Salvador. The least elaborate in terms of ornamental finery, it did in fact have the best acoustical sound of the three concert venues on our tour. But despite its more simplistic decor, it was still very beautiful.
For this, our final concert, we had a string trio to accompany us on the Hadyn Mass...the Missa Brevis. Chris, our accompanist, had also received permission (after previously proving his musical worthiness) to play the massive organ during the Haydn. And this was especially cool for me, seeing as my Benedictus soprano solo was in the Haydn Mass.

We began our concerts surrounding the audience and sang four songs there before moving up to the front of the hall. I found myself standing right in front of an older Czech gentleman who was missing a few teeth...something that was obvious to me as he watched me intently throughout our first few numbers with a huge grin on his face. As we sang our third number, the "Ave Maria," his smile gave way to tears. And after the song was done he leaned over slightly and started talking to me. I was a little taken aback at first...having a conversation with an audience member in between numbers is not usually considered proper concert etiquette. But I couldn't really deny him the opportunity to tell me that "Ave Maria" was his favorite song, and had been sung at his wife's funeral. It was actually a rather sweet moment.

This was our best concert of the tour. Whether it was the great acoustics or just because we knew it was our last, I don't know. Without a doubt, when I was singing the Benedictus I know I was buoyed by the amazing accompaniment. And I sang it the best I ever had. I was having ridiculous amounts of just felt SO good to really nail it, you know? To sing it in concert the way I knew I truly could. This solo in these amazing cathedrals in Europe, to sing Haydn in Budapest, Vienna and truly one of highlights of my life, something I am hugely proud of, but also very much humbled by. I will never forget it.
I love this picture because while I'm blurred, my Mom is in focus....and she's watching me sing. 

Yes, Chris is indeed facing away from the choir and conductor while playing this organ. Believe it or not, he used a rearview mirror to see. I imagine that had to be extremely difficult to watch the music in front of him at the same time he's valiantly trying to focus on Lyle so as to stay with the beat. But Chris did so, admirably. 

One of the songs we performed, "Waters Ripple and Flow," is an old Czech folk song that at one point in time had been banned. Under communism, possibly? One week before we were scheduled to leave, our director Lyle decided that we should learn the song in Czech. Have you ever tried to sing in Czech? It's harder even than German...and German gives me fits. (Thank heavens my solo was in Latin, yes?) We weren't sure we'd be able to truly pull it off. Would our audience just laugh at us? But when Bonnie, the first soloist for the song, sang her first phrase in Czech, we could see the huge smiles and the slight chatter as they realized what song we were singing and that we were singing it in their language. They even started to clap in the middle of the song, they were so delighted! And afterwards, unlike our other concerts, rather than go off stage and into a side room we exited down the aisle and out the back where we were able to shake hands with our audience and talk with them as they left. And oh, how they wanted to talk! Part Czech and part broken English, we mostly were able to understand their words. Such amazing people...stoic on the outside, genuine and beautiful on the inside. It truly was a great concert...a perfect way to end our Europe concert series.

 After the concert we were let loose to find some dinner and enjoy night life at Old Town Square.

Our final day in Prague was basically a do-whatever-you-want sort of shopping/sightseeing day with no concrete plans other than a dinner cruise later that night.

 We hit the Charles Bridge again...a little more leisurely this time.

 We had lunch at a fabulous little cafe Nicole had recommended...
....and some gelato for dessert. Of course.

Then we headed over to the Lennon Wall. At first I thought it was the Lenin Wall and wasn't quite sure why everyone was so jazzed about a wall commemorating some communist leader. So it made much more sense when I realized that actually it was John Lennon that was referred to. This wall was a place where Czech youth in the late 80's would air their grievances relating to the communist government, but also their hopes for a better world...a movement that was called Lennonism. Clashes between students and security police over this wall was common and even when it was painted over, the very next day it filled up with poems and lyrics and other such graffiti again. The graffiti continues today, a symbol of love and peace.

And we had to laugh a little at Linda when we saw that she had unintentionally placed herself right underneath Lennon's handlebar mustache...

After making a quick stop at the hotel to get fancied up a bit....
...we headed to our dinner cruise on the Moldau River. Call me a music geek if you must but I got a bit of a thrill seeing the Moldau. When I was probably about 10 years old my piano teacher introduced me to "The Moldau" by Smetana, a Czech composer. I still have memories of playing it over and over again on her vinyl record player. It has been one of my favorites ever since...I even learned to play it on the piano as I got older. So to be cruising down the actual Moldau was kind of cool. Plus, the river is very pretty and it was ridiculously awesome floating under the Charles Bridge.

We had a buffet style dinner inside the boat, but spent the majority of our cruise time on top so we could see the view.

Katie caught this silly picture of Nicole...a random shot of her doing a Superman pose. It has become a favorite way to fondly remember Nicole and how energetic and fun she was. We couldn't have asked for a better tour guide.

While on the dinner cruise, we had a "tacky souvenir" that had been forewarned so we could keep an eye out for possible contest entries while we were shopping earlier in the day.
Melissa and I both made it into the finals with her can of Prague air and my "Mona Shrek" painting.

But Lyle took home top honors with his Marijuana sucker (!!!) There were some really great contenders....which meant we laughed really a lot.

"Czech us out!!" These two, Christian and Robby, kept us in stitches throughout the dinner cruise. I'm not sure they even remember how it got started but somehow they decided that it would be rather hilarious to sing all of our concert songs in a Swedish Chef know, from the Muppets? It was the final day of the trip after all so maybe it was just exhaustion setting in, but they were laughing so hard they had tears rolling down their cheeks. I don't think I will ever think of the Swedish Chef in the same way again. He will always and forever be intrinsically linked with this trip.

It was a gorgeous evening....filled with a lot of laughter and singing. And I can't think of a better way to spend our last night in Prague.

We were loading luggage onto the bus by 6:00 AM the next morning, heading to the airport. Our glorious European singing tour was done. Good heavens, what incredibly wonderful and memorable adventures we had!
(Granted, we had no idea the adventures that were still in store just trying to get home....)

There has already been talk about another tour in 2-3 years...this time to the British Isles. I hope so. Because I already miss these people so much!

Eisenstadt and the dead composers club
More Vienna
Vienna: Lipizzaner Stallions, a Vineyard and Karlskirche