Thursday, July 30, 2009

Major League Soccer All Star Game

When season tickets went on sale last year for Real Salt Lake, we decided that we would "support the home team" and became season ticket holders. It has been a great decision, and I have enjoyed the games I've attended. As part of our season ticket package, we received tickets to the MLS All Star Game.

What a FUN night! Dominique and I went with my friend, Michelle and her son, Spencer.

As season ticket holders, we got these cool shirts.
Opening Ceremonies
Views from our seats.
It was a beautiful night.
The game ended in regulation with a 1-1 tie, and the rules state that this game would end with penalty kicks. Each team got 5 kicks (alternating between teams). At the end of the kicks, the team with the most points would win. If at the end of 5 kicks there was still a tie, it would be a sudden death. I taped each kick...and wow...what a heart stopping...EXCITING way to end a game. And how lucky were we that we got the kicks at our end of the field!

First Kick Everton
I thought this one was going to clock us in the head...which is why it's a bit "jerky" on the video.
Everton 0- MLS 0
First Kick MLS
Everton 0-MLS 1
Second Kick Everton
Everton 0-MLS 1
Second Kick MLS
Everton 0-MLS 1
Third Kick Everton
Everton 1-MLS 1
Third Kick MLS
Everton 1-MLS 1
Fourth Kick Everton
Everton 2-MLS 1
Fourth Kick MLS
Everton 2-MLS 2
Fifth Kick Everton
Everton 3-MLS 2
Fifth Kick MLS
Everton 3-MLS 3
So, yes....after 5 kicks, it was still a tie. The rules state that you continue kicking until one team "wins." So Everton kicks 1st. If they score, then MLS gets a chance to tie. If MLS ties, it goes on until there is a team that prevails. So, after 5 kicks...were in a "kick off" or whatever they call it.
Everton 6th Kick
Everton 4-MLS 3
MLS 6th Kick
Wow! What a game. We couldn't have asked for anything more...except a win for MLS! I'm looking forward to our next RLS home game.

Summer Softball

Summertime brings many activities, but one that is prominent in our family is softball (for the girls) and baseball for Bradley. All of the girls are excellent ball players, but Elle has worked really hard to improve her skills. She's blessed to have great coaches and a great group of girls to play with.

She's been playing catcher, but she has versatility to play most positions.

We're proud of her for the progress she's made in softball!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

What happened to playing "school" with paper and pencils? I was cleaning out my bookshelves. Some books got donated, some were given away and some were to be sold. I typically do a quick thumb through the books to see if there is any writing in them. I found this book:

I have my own copy of this classic, but this one belonged to one of the girls. I think it is Elle's. As I opened the book, I saw this....

Then this.....

At first I was irritated that there was writing in the book...then I looked closer....she made her own fake laptop, and she did a pretty good rendition. (Clearly, she doesn't know what a QWERTY keyboard is, but that's not a big surprise.)
She even drew the side of the laptop! Ingenious!

I don't know why she did this, but I'm guessing that one day she was either dreaming of having a laptop or was playing a game where she needed a laptop.

One thing that dismays me about the kiddos is that they don't like to read. It is a constant fight. I found it completely ironic that the laptop drawing was done in a book. I wish I could inspire them to READ books...and not just use them as props. It's a constant battle.

I try to tell them that it is a blessing and gift to be able to read. I try to explain that they get to do pretty much whatever they want, and all I ask is 30 minutes of reading a day. You'd think I'd asked them to eat a salad-only diet or something...they are that opposed to the idea.

*Sigh* I'll keep trying. I am a voracious reader. I can't imagine my life without it. Interestingly enough, I can't imagine my life without my laptop, either. I'm guessing that they learned that last part from me, too. I'm only hoping to have more influence on the first part.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Wendy's Zagreb: Getting There and a Walking Tour of the Gornji Grad


I served my mission in Croatia from 1992-1993 (during the war in former-Yugoslavia). Times were tough back then, but now Croatia has been revitalized as an enviable tourist destination. I have been blessed to return to Croatia several times since my mission.

I frequently have friends and co-workers who go to Croatia on vacation. More often than not, I send them "Wendy's Unofficial Guide to Croatia." I decided to post it here so that I can easily direct others to the information and keep the information updated. I began this as "Wendy's Croatia," but I realized that I needed to break it into a few parts.

I spent all of my time as a missionary in Zagreb, and I know it better than any other city in Croatia. Many people "skip" Zagreb, and that is a shame. Don't get me wrong, the Dalmatian coast is unbelievable, but to skip Zagreb is skipping the heart and soul of the country.
This post is dedicated to "Moj Zagreb", and other posts on Croatia will follow. I also view this post as something that I will edit periodically as I have relevant content to post.

Getting to Croatia: The obvious choice is to fly into Zagreb (the Capitol). However, if you are on a tight budget, you might consider alternative airports. Options include: Vienna, Budapest and Rome. Vienna is the easiest. I traveled from Rome once when my connection was cancelled. It is 8 hours on the train. Budapest is far as well, but it might be worth it if it is more cost-effective. Make sure to consider train schedules and the cost of the train in your cost assessment. I want to make sure that you know that you have alternatives to flying directly into Zagreb.
Where to Stay in Zagreb: I would recommend the Hotel Dubrovnik.

Hotel Dubrovnik because it is right smack dab in the center of absolutely everything you would want to do in Zagreb. You are literally in the city center if you stay at this hotel. You are walking distance to all of the major sites that I mentioned in the previous slide notes. It’s also a place filled with wonderful cafes, ice cream shops, restaurants, shopping and of course, it’s in the historic city center of Zagreb. It’s an absolutely fabulous location.

I think you should know that I have never stayed at Hotel Dubrovnik, but I have passed it a thousand times.

I typically stay at the Sheraton because I stay for free on points. It’s about 15 years old a just a bit run down; this assessment is based on my last stay. The staff is very professional and the service top notch. Sheraton Zagreb Hotel. Kneža Borne 2 · Zagreb 10000 · Croatia Phone: (385) (1) 4553535

If you absolutely must "rough it," a hostel may be for you. I found out about this one on a blog. I have never stayed here, but, I can tell you that the location is good. It is not far from the center of town and is accessible by public transportation. The price is definitely right at 19 Euros per person. Peruse the website linked above for more information.

If you happen to find a property that you are interested in, let me know, and I can ask a local about the property, the reputation and the location.

A Self Guided Walking Tour of the Gornji Grad: Click here to read of the historical significance of the oldest part of Zagreb,_Zagreb. I love this area of town. To me, this is the heart of Zagreb. I have spent much of my time here, and I never tire of it. If you have only one day in Zagreb, make sure you spend it in this part of town. This suggested walking tour begins at the main Square.
Trg Bana Jelačića (the main square: above ). This is a GREAT place to people watch. Everyone passes through the city center.

The X marks the main square. If you are facing the square, head to your left toward the large bank building. You'll see a foot path that leads to the Cathedral. Make sure you go into the Cathedral! It is over 900 years old. The cavernous building is simplistic in design but still quite beautiful. Take some time there. It will be a cool refuge on a warm summer's day. If you take a look at the walls, you'll notice some writing that will not look familiar. This is an old form of Slavic writing. I've never seen this ancient writing anywhere else in the world, and it is intriguing.

In general, it is inappropriate to take photos inside of the Cathedral. If you enjoyed your time, a nominal donation is appropriate in the box at the door of the Cathedral.
In the grounds adjacent to the Cathedral, you'll see the monastery. You cannot enter the grounds, but the buildings are quaint; you might miss them for the mammoth Cathedral, but make sure to look at the buildings near the Cathedral.
From the Cathedral, make your way to the open market. The BEST time to go to the market is mid-morning (about 10:00 AM). The arrows on the picture below show you the "back way" to the market. You'll hear it, smell it and see folks walking that way. If you come in this way, you'll avoid all of the hub-bub that you get when coming up the main stairs and won't be approached (you'll probably be easily identifiable as a tourist).
On that route to the market (and we're talking about 100 yards or so), there will be some Croatian souvenir shops. Look but don't buy until you've been to the market. The prices are better at the market than in the store. Make sure you bargain. They'll come down. A classic tactic is to walk away. They won't let the sale go. Be fair, but don't take the first price. Below is a view of the market with the Cathedral in the background as a point of reference. The Dolac (market) sometimes is referred to as the "Platz." The view below showcases the portion of the market that is fresh fruit, nuts, vegetables, cheese and other food items. Opposite the Cathedral side of the market (not in this photo) is the fish market. As a fish hater, it makes me sick, but it's the place for fresh seafood.

Below: Arched doorways are where you will find the fish market.
Wander around the market! Have a good time. Try some cheese (the kind that is in the circle shape) it is wonderful! If they offer you a sample, take one.

A few words that will help you:
  • Koliko cošta?=How much does it cost.
    (To be truthful, you probably won't understand what they say, but use your fingers to display price and how much you will pay. Don't pull out your money and show what you have. Many of them will know enough English to explain how much it costs.)
  • Hvala=Thank you.
  • Molim=Please
  • Dobar Dan=Have a good day.
If you go "up" in the market (away from the main entrance...with the main entrance being the entrance closest to the main square), you will find "things" for sale: shoes, clothing, trinkets, etc. If you are looking for something that is "typically Croatian," I recommend lace. Make sure that it is done by hand, not machine. If you don't check, you may be buying something made in China. Ask them. Specifically, ask for lace made in Pag. Croatia is famous for its lace made in Pag. It is expensive and difficult to find, but when you see it, you'll know it is authentic. It's called "Paška Čipka."
Make sure to wander and explore!
In summary. Start at the X (on the picture above), make your way to the Cathedral. Make your way to the Market. Explore, explore, explore. Before you leave the Market area, if you want an authentic Croatian experience, go to the area I have circled on the map. As you are "leaving" the market, you will find a number of local eateries and cafes. These are truly local places, and it's a bit crazy up there. There is a shop that sells only Burek. Burek is a Croatia pastry pie that is prepared with either cheese or meat. Make sure you go and get one!

You'll walk in, probably be verbally abused by an angry Croatian man, order your Burek then proceed outside. Seriously, this guy is like the soup Nazi from Seinfeld. It's a great experience! Must do! I prefer meat Burek, but either is good.

How to order:
  • Ja želim burek s mesom. (for meat)
  • Ja želim burek s sirom. (for cheese)

Cheese Burek (above)
Meat Burek (above)
As you leave the market, come down the large stair case at the "front" of the Market. From the stairs, turn right and go up the street named Ivana Tkalčićeva. The first street you come to on your left is called Kravi Most. (See Map Below). Go left on Krvavi Most.

Click here to read about the historical significance of this street (which was once a bridge). The literal meaning of the street name is "Bloody Bridge." This history (in the link provided) gives you just a slight insight to the rich and dynamic history of this city. From Krvavci Most, turn right onto Radićeva. It is a rather steep walk up Radićeva, so be prepared. This is the steepest part of this walking tour. Near the top of the hill, there is a stairway with a statue near the steps. Take the steps up. You are approaching the ancient city wall and the only gate that survived a fire in 1731. The place is called the Kamenita Vrata (Stone Gate). As you pass through the gate, note that you are in a sacred area to Croatian Catholics. Reverence is expected. There is a painting of Virgin and Child that survived the fire, and since that time, this place has been sacred and turned into a shrine.
You may see women selling candles or prayer beads outside of the shrine. The plaques on the wall are tributes to the Virgin Mary.

There used to be a pizza place right in front of the gate (on the right). The last time I was in Zagreb, the pizza place was closed. Check. If it is open, make sure you go get some pizza there. A note about Croatian pizza. Pizzas are personal servings; pizzas are not typically shared. They are served uncut and are to be eaten with a knife and a fork (just take a look at how the locals are doing it.) They don't have pepperoni in Croatia, and fefferoni are unless you want jalapenos on your pizza, choose a different topping. Another Croatian classic is to have a fried egg on the pizza. I'm not a big fan of egg on the pizza, but it's a true Croatian experience.
As you pass through the Kamenita Vrata, you will find a VERY old Pharmacy. (Apoteka)
Pass the street named Opatička. Continue to the next street. On your right, it will be very obvious that you are at the Presidential Palace; it is on your right. There is a changing of the guard ceremony at noon on weekends during the summer months. It's free, and if you can plan your walking tour around it, it is worth seeing.

The X on the map (above) signifies the St. Mark's Square and the famous St. Mark's Church. It is a must photo op. Below is a picture of St. Mark's. The Church was constructed in the 17th Century. The picturesque tiles represent the coat of arms for Croatia, Zagreb, Slavonia and Dalmatia.
From St. Mark's Square, turn around and go down the street called: Cirilometodska. The street is named after monks Cyril and Method who invented the Cyrillic alphabet in the 9th century and used it as a tool to convert the Slavs to Christianity.
At the end of the street, you'll find remnants of the city wall and a tower. You can pay to go to the top of the tower. Each day at noon, they still shoot a cannon from the tower. (Be aware of this daily occurrence. During the war years, the cannon freaked me out a bit when I was in the center of town.)

To the east of the tower is a white, baroque church called St. Catherine's. I have been in it only once and it was for a concert. It is quite beautiful inside if you happen to be able to catch a performance there, it would be worth it.
If you go on the south side of St. Katherine's, you'll find a way to "get behind" the church. There is a wide open space (oddly placed in an old city) that provides a phenomenal photo opportunity of the Kathedral from a distance. Here is where my memory gets just a bit fuzzy. I "think" that there is a set of stairs from that open space that will lead you down the hill and back to Radićeva. If you don't find a set of stairs there, go back out to the tower and to the south of the tower and to the left is a footpath that will lead you back to Radićeva and back to the main square. Alternately, you can take the funicular (uspinjača) down for a nominal fee. If you take the funicular, you turn left on Ilica Ulica and it will lead you back to the square.

If you do not get pizza near the Kamenita Vrata, there are some nice cafes on Ivana Tkalčićeva. To get there from the Square (if you have walked down), it is the street parallel to Radićeva. (Remember Kravaci Most connected those two streets). Instead of turning to go on Kravaci Most, keep straight). This street is not nearly as steep.
Some final thoughts. Make sure to explore. There is a lot to see, and the best things about the main square and the Gornji Grad are making it your own. If it looks interesting, it probably is.
If you are wandering, exploring and enjoying yourself, the Gornji Grad should take about 4 hours if you take my recommendations. You can do it all in about an hour if you don't spend extra time at the market, shopping and having lunch.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


In preparation for our trip to San Francisco, we rented the Clint Eastwood classic, "Escape from Alcatraz." The girls loved it, and it made their trip to "The Rock" much more meaningful. It was pretty overcast most of our trip. Below are some of the Alcatraz highlights. (Wendy was working during the Alcatraz tour and is noticeably absent.)

Dom "fake crying" because she's in jail.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

What have the kids been up to?

I can't believe that it's almost been a MONTH since I last posted. While our attention was diverted for a period of time to deal with a family issue, we're hopefully back on track now! One of the absolute best things we did this summer was to hire Jana! She comes every day (even when Wendy is home) to be with Elle and Domi. Now, both girls are capable of being on their own, but it's summertime, and they want to be going and doing. I can't do that when I'm working from home, and I definitely can't do that when I'm gone. Jana helps them plan their days and does a great job of mixing the required (like reading, math and music) with the fun (like everything else!) Each week she chooses a "big" event. Here are a few pics of what they've been up to. This is Jana and Mariah on the week they went bowling. Riah tagged along. (She likes Jana and bowling, so it was a perfect combo!)
This is when they went to the Aquarium...Dom doesn't look like she's having fun at all! ;-)

This was when they went to the zoo. Dylan (our neighbor) with Dom and Elle. They had a really good time! (Elle won't show her teeth when she smiles...if she only could see how beautiful we all think her smile is! She's our smiling Elle. We're hoping she moves past the no smile phase soon!)

This pic of Dylan and Dom at the zoo makes me smile.

Just last week they went to the Oquirrih Temple Open house.

It's been great to have someone we can rely upon to make sure the girls have organized days and weeks. It's making the summer fly by! They don't have to rely on Dad or Wendy to get home to do things, and they seem to be having a great time! We're glad we have Jana! We know she's getting ready for school in the Fall, and we wish her all the best. Hopefully, more Jana pictures are to come since we have her for about 6 more weeks!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Don't test me....

My friend, Aaron, sent this to me. Thanks, Aaron! It's blog worthy.

Trust me had I known in advance, I definitely would have tied him up and hung him upside down!!!