Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Memorial Weekend

Memorial Day weekend and it feels like summer is officially here. Heber has been unusually warm this year. Absolutely beautiful. It seems like Memorial Days can be hit and miss around here, but we definitely hit the jackpot this year.

We started our holiday with a drive to Claire's and Lily's grave in Cottonwood Heights. It is such a beautiful place, especially when the whole place is decorated. It is always a peaceful place to be with our family. 

Enticed by the first Brag Badge of the season we attended the community Memorial Day breakfast and program. It was a good reminder of the sacrifice many make and why we celebrate this day. 

We did find it ironic that we were waving Taiwanese American flags during one pseudo-patriotic country song touting "Made in America."

Karen and the Johnson cousins came to visit between leaving their home in Anchorage and moving to a new home in Houston. The kids all ran the Memorial Day Mile-long Fun Run. Eli has been asking to run a race all spring. He ran the whole way. Drew took second place. If there had been a prize he would have tried harder and taken first he claims. Isaac took a few "short cuts."

Afterwards we went home for pizza--got to get right on the pizza party Brag Tag.

All in all, a memorable day!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Madrid Day 4--Sites Around the City

On day four of our Madrid trip we took in the sights and sites of the city. We started in Sol, which is the Times Square of Madrid--the touristy center. From there we caught a big double decker tour bus. It was neat to get a quick overview of the architecture of the city. I love the pristine white marble used so extensively in the city and the unifying architecture. I don't think I would recommend bus tours for traveling with kids though. Eli and Isaac got bored quickly, there were many stops, and the architectural information wasn't terribly fascinating to them. To keep them excited I shared my camera with them, so most of the pictures of this day are courtesy of my young photographers.

We got off the bus at the Madrid Opera and stopped for lunch. This was my favorite meal of the trip: bread and herbs, chorizo, baked potatoes, ribs, and ice cream. It seems like a plain meal, but it was all so flavorful. Mmm, chorizo! I feel like I have failed my sister by not taking food pictures. It wasn't really much to look at anyway, but it sure was tasty!

After nourishment we walked to the Palacio Real. Outside in the gardens, like any touristy spot, street artists were at work. I thought this bubble blower came up with a unique way to get a few Euros for his can.

Then inside--Wow! Walls are covered in silk and porcelain, ceilings inlaid with gold, gold leafed furniture and tapestries. I thought the Spanish royal palace was even more spectacular than Versailles. The boys favorite part was the armory, the largest display of armor and weapons I have ever seen, including chain mail and armor for boys just their size. Picture taking was not allowed, Vivienne thought I was pushing it with these pictures outside, but you can Google Palacio Real Madrid to get an idea. The boys favorite part was the armory, the largest display of armor and weapons I have ever seen, including chain mail and armor for boys just their size.

You can see the Almudena Cathedral in the background of this picture (my young photojournalist didn't get any other pictures).


I though this was very different than the cathedral we toured in Segovia, while still old, much of the artwork and sculpture is a little more modern. The biggest difference though is that it was used, patrons and clergy breathed life into this building. We didn't stay too long. By now the boys, including Dave had maxed out their sightseeing patience. The kids were great to walk through so many marble halls, so we rode the metro home and let them spend the rest of the evening at the playground. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Retiro Park--Madrid Dia Tres

Monday morning Bubba took us on the metro to Retiro Park, in the center of Madrid. As we entered the park he pointed out the first of many playgrounds in the park. He intended to just point it out and then continue on our way. But my three young cabelleros were not into simply window shopping for playgrounds, so we stopped to play for a while before continuing on to our destination.

I must say, Madrid is a rather family friendly city. Playgrounds are everywhere and well-kept, down the median of almost every main street. Most venues in Madrid also have large-family pricing for EU families, a large family being three or more members (large American families pay full price, however).

From the playground we walked on to the gardens, with peacocks roaming all over--close enough to touch. I think Isaac actually did. They were up in the trees and on the buildings. I don't know how they fly with those grand tail feathers, but apparently they can.

Our park walk extended to the Crystal Palace, a glass castle filled with rocking chairs and complimentary reading material, surrounded by a turtle-filled moat. We stopped at a cafe with a view of the lake for hot chocolate and churros, a Spanish specialty.

Here we are on front of a giant monument to King...I can't remember...some benevolent king from the  turn of the century. Bubba and Dave rested their weary bodies while Drew, Isaac, and Eli turned 360s and 180s of the highest steps.

Nana came and picked the boys up later in the afternoon to take them to an English class her friend, Helen Benito teaches to kids in her town. The boys answered questions about their favorite colors, foods, and hobbies.

Bubba, Dave, and I walked to the Museo Reina Sophia, Madrid's museum of modern art. The guys were very good sports, as neither of them really enjoy that kind of thing, but I was not going to leave Madrid without seeing Picasso's Guernica in real life. It has been one of my favorite paintings since my high school art history class. It was painted to commemorate the bombing of a Basque village in Northern Spain by German and Italian forces during the Spanish Civil War. I think it conveys a sense of emotion and terror that realism just can't quite get to. The experience of seeing it at its true scale is so different than seeing it in the pages of a book.

After walking Dave's neck and Bubba's knee to the max on marble floors we caught the train to Alczar de Henares for dinner at the Benito's home. Helen made some great typical Spanish foods like tortillas de patates. She also prepared a lovely birthday cake--with the bong as a cake topper. There are pictures somewhere, I just don't know where.

Following a weary train ride back to Nana's and Bubba's place we fell asleep anticipating Madrid day four.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Isaac's Ninth + Madrid Dia Dos

This year Isaac got to celebrate his ninth birthday eight hours early from the Central European Summer Time zone. He has a party planned at a future date, as well as birthday treats at school on another day, so we anticipate Isaac's Ninth to encompass the entire month.

While in Spain Isaac was recognized with a birthday serenade by the Madrid missionaries, and a fabulous American-style birthday cake from Nana, with her four remaining birthday candles. Of those, Isaac successfully extinguished three of the four flames resulting in 3/4 birthday wish fulfillment.

More birthday reporting later...

We spent Sunday, April 6th taking it easy in Spain. We spent much of the day on Temple Square. We hung out with Bubba and Nana as they rehearsed and conducted the missionary choir for their weekly performance on the temple steps. The music was beautiful and I loved hearing the missionaries in their native language and as they all sung together in Spanish and English. I am gaining a new appreciation for how much courage it takes to leave so young and preach the gospel in a foreign place and often in a foreign language, especially for these missionaries who come from a place where it is not the cultural norm. I have so much respect for the missionaries we met there.

While at Temple Square we met the Elder who was caught in the high-speed train wreck in Madrid last summer. He and Dave were in recovery at the same time and have matching spiky hair, spine hardware and neck scars which they are showing off here. He is a super optimistic guy and I'm glad that he is walking the streets of Spain.

At 6pm Spain time which translated to 10am Utah time we watched the Sunday Morning Session of conference at the CCM (or MTC) with the missionaries. All of the boy were great. We had to modify our game of listen for the chosen word and get a jelly bean to a format that was a little more reverent for the venue. I think the session can be summed up by Isaac's notes (taken of his own accord).

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Rain in Spain--Madrid: Dia Uno

 I had been watching the Madrid weather forecast for weeks before we left, and saw only rain on the horizon. Considering we had snow the same week here in Heber, even the rainy weather was an improvement however. On our first full day in Spain we traveled to the city of Segovia to see the medieval royal castle. Segovia is about an hour outside of Madrid and some of Nana's and Bubba's friends were kind enough to taxi us all out there to the soggy plain. 

Here we are walking from the narrow, cobblestone streets opening up to the Plaza Major and view of the Segovia Cathedral. The outside of the cathedral is like nothing I've ever seen. The inside is not as well maintained as others we saw on our trip, but still incredibly grand. I would love to know more about the people who created these structures, their desire to reach heavenward, and their vision and ingenuity.

Segovia was once the capital of Spain and the home of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella after they united the kingdom. We toured their castle, the Alcazar of Segovia, that has existed in some form or another since Roman times. The boys, or course, loved seeing the armory and the gold ceilings. The views from the castle are breathtaking, especially from the top of the tower of Juan.

This Roman aqueduct carried water from the mountains for centuries, built entirely without mortar, and is quite a sight. Coming from America and the west it is so hard for me to wrap my mind around the time and space of these cities. Segovia has lasted for so long and yet continues to be so functional.  This bus barreling down this tiny street with tourists flanking on two-foot wide sidewalks seemed so contradictory to me. 

The rain cleared after lunch and we were able to explore the city a little more. I loved the view here of the red buildings against the green hillside and the blue sky. It reminds me of my favorite vistas in southern Utah. Our drivers left us at the aqueduct while they went to find the cars. Unfortunately this wicked downpour moved in. We had a gift shop nearby to shelter in--while our drivers got soaked!

 On our way from Segovia we stopped at La Granja, the royal summer home (picture taking was not allowed inside). Spring hadn't quite made it to this elevation. The gardens were enormous and magnificent with hundreds of gold and marble fountains, terraced waterfalls, hedge mazes, and rose gardens. I would love to see it in all its summer splendor!

That concluded our first full day in Spain.

Friday, February 21, 2014

First Steps

She is finally on two feet! We knew she had all the pieces to make it happen, but it was just a matter of deciding when to do it. Her favorite past time while waiting at the Soldier Hollow Lodge for her brothers to ski is to stand up in the middle of the big round tables like a statue on a pedestal and on this day she decided to take a few unexpected tottering steps to the edge. Later that afternoon Liz, Abby and I decided to try her at it again. This is what happened. video

For the next two weeks she would only walk on her own if she had a crowd of applauding, adoring fans. But now she is a full on walker and is proud of it, leaning out of my arms whenever I try to carry her and demanding "falk! falk!" 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Drew's Science Fair (or how a mom who forgets to take pictures blogs the science fair)

As a fifth grader Drew is now required to participate in the science fair. Right away he decided that he wanted to do something with electricity and windmills. With the help of dad, the Gardner family, and one of our neighbors this is what he came up with to test how the length of the blade effects electrical output. Executing this project was a ton of work! He owned it though and came away with an A. 
Recording his results after testing the medium sized blade.
Dad managing the wind source.
Drew Sullivan’s Science Project

Title: Max Electricity Made By a Wind Turbine
Question: How does the size of a windmill’s blade affect the electrical output?
Hypothesis: I think that if the windmill’s blade is bigger it can make more electricity.
Research Plan:
  • Controlled variables
    1. The body of the windmill
    2. Wind generator (Shop Vac) and distance between the wind source and the body of the windmill.
    3. Materials that the blades are built out of
    4. Mini wind generator turbine
  • Independent variable --windmill blades of three sizes
      • 5”x10”x12”
      • 7”x14”16”
      • 9”x17”x20”
  • Dependent variable--the electrical output measured on the analog scale of a volt meter in mili-amps.
  • Replication (this is how many times you will run your test) -
  • Materials List - I will need the following items for my Science Fair project:
    1. wooden board for base
    2. 4’ metal pole
    3. 2 metal boxes
    4. plastic construction toys
    5. wooden dowels
    6. duct tape
    7. shop vac for wind generator
    8. volt meter
    9. hot glue gun
    10. metal clamps

  • Procedure -
    1. First, make the base of the windmill by using a box and a clamp to attach the pole to the wooden base.
    2. Build the part to hold the turbine using plastic constructions toys.
    3. Make windmill blades by:
      • Cutting dowels to the right size with a handsaw
      • Cut a chopstick for the top of the blade
      • Made a hole at the top of the dowel and hot glued chopstick into the hole
      • Connected the two sides with duct tape to make a blade
    4. Connected the blades to the windmill turbine with metal clamps.
    5. Tested the windmill and the different blades.
      • I had my dad holding the shop vac and standing two feet away and blowing it on the windmill.
      • I measured the voltage by connecting the volt meter to the turbine
      • Then we repeated it with the different sized blades.


Blade Size
Electricity in Mili-Amps

The smallest blade made the most electricity. The biggest blade made the least.


My hypothesis that the bigger the blade the more electricity it would make was wrong. My background research made me think that bigger blades would make more energy. I think the smaller blades made more energy because they were more steady and the bigger blades were more wobbly. To make a windmill that produces the most electricity I would use different materials. For example, I would not use the toy pieces because they weren’t strong enough big blades. Also, I would use a lighter dowel to make my blades. I think that there are other things besides the size of the blades that are important in making a windmill that makes lots of energy like it has to be steady.

I don’t think this experiment proves that the smaller blades are better because I read in my research that the bigger the blade the more electricity it makes. My experiment proves what I read about how the weight and flexing can lead to damage, and the long blades can create drag if the wind is only on one spot.

Background Information:
  • The wind spins machines called turbines that make electricity. (Gaarrder-Juntti, 18)
  • A windmill blade that is longer than a football field can power 1000 homes. (Nakaya, 7)
  • Germany had more than 9000 windmills. (Morgan, 22)
  • Wind turbines have been developed to maximize wind conditions and locations. (Higgins, 33)
  • Power is proportional to the area of the circle made by the blades. Increasing the blades length means the circle’s radius is increasing and more power is generated. (Higgins, 58)
  • Too much weight and flexing can lead to turbine blade damage. (Higgins, 59)
  • Most windmills have three-blades for greater balance. (Higgins, 33)
  • It is more windy up high that’s why windmills are big. (Morgan, 18)
  • They are built from light but strong composite materials so they can withstand gusty winds (Morgan, 18)
  • Windmills used to be used to grind wheat (Jefferies, 14)
  • Wind turbines only work when the wind is blowing between 7 and 53 miles per hour. (Royston, 31)
  • The most voltage was produced when the blades were angled slightly from the plane of rotation. (DiCarlo)
  • When DiCarlo tested his experiment he said that the bigger windmill blades create drag because the blades were not completely in the wind. (DiCarlo)
  • Three-bladed wind turbines are operated "upwind," with the blades facing into the wind. (
  • A windmill blade works like an airplane wing, the difference in pressure between the top and bottom makes it move (Energy 101)
  • Larger blades make energy more efficiently (Energy 101)
  • finding a location with twice the wind pays off far better than buying a wind turbine with twice the blade length. (Orenda)


“How Do Wind Turbines Work?” 1/17/2013.

DiCarlo, Chris, et al. “KidWind PVC Turbines Blade Test Results.” Summer, 2005.
Gaarder-Juntti, Oona. What in the World is Green Energy? North Mankato, MN: ABDO, 2011.

Higgins, Melissa. Wind Energy. North Mankato, MN: ABDO, 2013.

Jefferis, David. Green Power. New York: Crabtree Publishing Company, 2006.

Morgan, Sally. Alternative Energy Sources. Chicago, IL: Hammond Library, 2003.

Nakaya, Andrea C. What is the Future of Wind Power? San Diego, CA: Reference Point Press, 2013.

Royston, Angela. Sustainable Energy. Mankato, MN: Arcturus Publishing Limited, 2009.

Sally at Orenda Energy Solutions. “Does Wind Turbine Blade length Really Matter?” August, 6, 2013.

U.S. Department of Energy. “Energy 101.” July 30 2010.

Drew checking out someone else's science project. At least his teacher remembered to take a shot or two.