Sunday, June 14, 2009

Culture Passes

The public libraries here in the Valley have a new program that allows us to check out a "Culture Pass" for various museums around the valley. There are Culture Passes for the Heard Museum, the Desert Botanical Garden, the Phoenix Art Museum, Taliesin West, and a bunch of other places. Each library has 5 passes available for each venue. The downtown Mesa library makes one of each of the passes available each day Tuesday through Saturday. A culture pass will give you four free admissions to whichever location.

This has proven to be a very popular program. Who wouldn't want four free tickets to the Zoo? An adult ticket costs $16. And Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West costs $32 for each ticket. The four free tickets on the Culture Pass apply to the most expensive tickets, so we use them for two adults and two children.

To get a Culture Pass, show up about half an hour before the library opens, and get in line. Bring a book to read... at least at the Main Mesa library, the line is in the shade. If you are lucky, you will be first in line, and get to pick which Pass you would like. The first Passes to disappear are for the Zoo, the Science Center, and the Natural History Museum. If you don't get in line before the library opens at 10:00, the only pass left will be for the Bead Museum(?) in Glendale.

After a couple weeks of uncivilized behavior on the part of a few visitors who would cut in line, shove, and grab a big handful of pass cards in hopes of getting what they wanted, the library now has a "monitor" who spends five minutes getting people to line up and be polite. I never thought that free tickets to anything was worth running or shoving for, so I had to go back several times before I was able to get a Culture Pass. Now it seems the library has figured it out, and people are generally polite and helpful.

To limit the stampede, each family is only allowed to check out one pass per week, and two passes per month. That is two for the month of June, then July, then August, etc. As an added bonus, if you attend a location, and decide you would like an annual pass, the museum generally offer a 10% discount on membership when you visit with a Culture Pass.

So far we have been able to visit the Phoenix Art Museum and the Arizona Science Center using the passes. We saved $45 on the Arizona Science Center, which the children enjoyed immensely. We saved $28 on the Art Museum, which received mixed reviews from our children.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Summer fun

Summer is fun here in Arizona. We've been swimming often, and enjoying the nice weather. We've been trying to do family activities on Saturdays.

Primary softball was this week, Monday, Tuesday, and today at 6:30 am. The girls had fun and did a pretty good job considering they don't really play softball anywhere else.

The children have been having a lot of fun with small projects this summer. Play dough is a fun activity.

That's about it for today.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Garden Update

I know I've written a lot about our garden, but it is very cool to have a garden that grows something besides radishes and weeds.

It seems that Arizona gardens need a lot of water. As long as I water every day, the plants do great. If I forget, the plants go all wilted and the chard leaves go crispy on the edges. I water late Saturday evening and on Monday morning to keep the garden alive over Sunday. I might be over-watering some of the plants, but watering six days a week seems to keep them alive.

We are estimating that this garden costs about $18 a month to water daily. It should be an accurate estimate, since the only change to our water use in February and March was to add the garden. So, if you exclude the cost of the bricks and dirt, the garden is very economical. We definitely eat more than $18 worth of vegetables from the garden every month. It may take a couple of years to recover the cost of the building materials, but the garden is already worth it just for the experience of building it together as a family and the excitement the children feel as they pick (and eat) the vegetables.

The garden is doing great. We planted a pack of six zucchini starts from a nursery, and so we have a few more zucchini than we can eat at a time. I have been freezing bags of squash for later on. As good as Mom's recipe is, a double batch of zucchini bread is about all we can eat before everyone is tired of it for a week or so.

Now, if you lose track for a couple of days, the zucchini will be enormous. Here is a cool picture of the two oldest children holding the biggest zucchini they had ever seen. It was, however, not the biggest for long! We have had several even bigger that got turned into zucchini bread. Now I won't let them get that big anymore.

So here's a picture of our twenty-foot long butternut squash vine. We were wishing it was a watermelon or cantaloupe, but we didn't plant those this season! When the plant sprouted, I just directed the vine over the edge of the garden, and kept re-directing it every day as I watered the garden. Now it borders one entire side of the garden.