Thursday, September 30, 2010

Better Than a Pillow Pet

Christmas 2010 with the grand trifecta of gifts - a tiger pillow, a lightsaber flashlight, and big brother's play tent.

My parents got the boys awesome tiger pillows for Christmas last year (although I realized we first played with them a year ago in September - look at what a baby Buster was back then!), and little did we know that the tigers were the harbingers of the rabidly trendy Pillow Pets (It's a pillow! It's a pet! It's a Pillow Pet!).

My mom and dad are so ahead of the game. Our tigers are much bigger and cooler than the Pillow Pets, so we are spared the need to haunt mall kiosks.

Amalah shared the story of her boys and their Pillow Pets here. Highlight: Ezra buried his face in his dog (pillow), kicking and squealing with uncontainable glee, a precocious start to a lifetime of Personal Fulfillment Through Goods As Seen On TeeVee.

(Profanity warning, so don't click over if you're unaccustomed to strong language.)

This is my week for unrelated tags, so let's just go ahead and add one more: I just turned in the signature pages for my first patent application!

One of the clauses was the standard corporate agreement that I grant the rights of the patent to the Company for the sum of one dollar.

It made me think of the remarkable Professor Richard Feynman of CalTech, who nagged his boss so insistently about "Where is my ONE DOLLAR?" for one of his patents that his boss finally gave in and just gave him a dollar out of his own pocket. Back in those days, the dollar was enough to spend on quite a selection of snacks, which he shared with his department . . which led to all the other engineers insisting that they get their one dollar too.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Decorator Envy

One of my colleagues is renovating a rustic cabin so that there will be running water and a bathroom (!), which has emboldened me to tackle a home project of our own. Getting rid of the wallpaper in our kitchen! Or at least hiring someone to do it.

The Original Owners were very thorough. There's wallpaper around every bit of wall bordering the many cabinets, so there's a lot of it, but I trust that they did it professionally. Hopefully there won't be surprises underneath.

If that dude can build a bathroom, surely I can get our kitchen painted.

I am lacking some kind of decorator gene. I look at Heather Armstrong's lovely home interiors and admire.

And then I click over to Catalog Living, where the blogger re-captions arty catalog illustrations with hilarious results. Check it out.

P.S. We got an email update from school explaining the peanut butter flyer. It is indeed for a "Feeding America" project.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

In Search of a Grown-Up Dress

We have a couple of weddings coming up, and my usual going-out-dancing dresses and frocks that I've worn to dance friends' weddings were clearly not going to cut it. I put my latest favorite, a little black tiered number from the teen department and determined it was too sl*tty to wear to an event where colleagues and/or family members would be present. Time to go shopping!

I went to the grown-up department at Nordstrom's and believe it or not, found something appropriate and still kind of fun. And red!

The online site didn't have a photo, but this one is pretty close - imagine it sleeveless and red.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Butter Baffled

We received a flyer from school today, a school that prohibits children bringing nuts in their snacks and lunches due to allergy concerns, like most schools today. The flyer said:

“Join us! We are graciously accepting: Peanut Butter, Nut Butter, or any other Protein butter in our annual peanut butter drive.”

Besides the questionable opening text (graciously accepting? When it’s a donation request?), it makes me laugh because there’s absolutely no reason given. They’re going to use the peanut butter to threaten wayward children with allergies?

(Yes, yes, I presume that this is a food drive for under-privileged families, but it just made me smile while I checked our cupboard for donation supplies.)

In unrelated news, one of the highlights of my day is when I get home from work and the micro dude throws open the door.

“Hewwo Mommy!”

Today, that was followed immediately with the question, ”Should we order a pizza?”

The child is learning young.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Mr. Manners

I awoke to my favorite morning sound, a little piping voice calling, “Mommy, mommy, mommy, mooooooommmmmy!” so I bought a little extra time by handing Buster a new Cars book from the dwindling stash I’d tucked away after his birthday bonanza (five months ago.) He happily took the book and read to himself for another 20 minutes while I blinked myself awake.

Later in the morning, I overheard his Q-ster examining the book. “Buster, is that new? Did Mommy give it to you today?”

I wondered if he was going to come to me, demanding something new too. Instead, he continued to grill his little brother, “Did you say thank you?”

Buster came running into my bedroom, “TANK YOU!”


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Viking Construction

I was going to title this "Land of the Vikings," since that was where I was when I took the pictures, but this is mostly about their ships, so "land" doesn't quite work. Anyway.

Unlike that first trip where I saw only conference rooms, I was determined to actually see something of the country this time. Sunday afternoon, I was able to visit the city's medieval fortress, and late Friday, after a week of conference rooms, my colleague took me to see the Viking Ship Museum. Very cool stuff.

The Oseberg ship dates from before 800. The picture above is courtesy of Wikipedia, because I didn't manage to get a photo of the whole thing.

It's amazing that this thousand year old wooden ship was found intact.


Oar storage. You can see the holes at the edge of the ship where they would have been inserted. I can't remember how many oars it had, but the Gokstad ship, on the other side of the museum, was set up for 32 oarsmen.

We also stopped by the neighboring folk museum, where a stave church from 1212 had been moved and preserved. In case you are like me and have no idea what a stave church is, wikipedia reports that it's "a wooden medieval church with a post and beam construction related to timber framing."

My colleague said that one could still arrange to have a wedding there. I'm not sure how the logistics would work, because it's *really* dark inside, and it's not like they're going to encourage you to bring candles inside one of the few all-wood structures that has survived into the 21st century. Maybe it'd be considered "romantically" lit.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Kinda Wishing We Were as Bold as the Bloggess

We attended the International Potluck Dinner at Q-ster's school tonight, and it is indeed an international school. There was a large table for dishes from China, and a matching table for India. Another table was labeled for Japan and Korea. The rest of the world was gathered on the last table, with a section for America (where I saw macaroni and cheese) and Italy (a couple of pizzas).

I recalled that Jenny, the Bloggess, had brought crackers to her daughter's kindergarten multi-cultural day, and as one of the few Caucasian parents, SwingDaddy said he was totally doing the same for our next dinner. Thanks, Jenny.

P.S. I was looking for the table labeled "Nation of Trader Joe's." My potluck secret is bringing their meatballs. They are really popular with the kids because they're easy to serve and eat, plus they don't completely look store-bought.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Fellow Bloglines Refugees

My longtime blog reading tool, Bloglines, is shutting down on October 1.

What do you suggest as a replacement? Google Reader, Feedburner?

Bonus points for something that's easy to read on the iPhone.

Unrelated cuteness from the Frankfurt airport:

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Boyz Town

SwingDaddy was off for the weekend seeing the Reno Air Races with his folks, so the boys and I entertained ourselves with a trip to the library (using the automatic book-checker-outer is about the coolest thing ever), shopping at Costco (so many free snack samples), and playing their favorite game, Climbing on Mommy. Happily, they let me photograph the last part.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Two Year Olds at Soccer Class

Hey baby, it's time for your first soccer class!

Mommy, I see a playground over there.

No really, let's go to the playground.

Yeah, this is much more fun.

I love slides.

Going up the slide is much more fun.

OK fine. Soccer. What do you mean no hands?

Yes, yes. I can kick the ball too.

Note: When I signed up the micro dude for this class, I fully realized that this going to be an exercise in running around outside in the vicinity of soccer balls, rather than really being "soccer." He seemed to be having a good time, which is all that matters. And oh, the cuteness of a bunch of two year olds.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Apprentice Papercutter

Apparently, I did sufficiently well at the first kindergarten volunteering session, because I was assigned some more paper cutting. It's a strangely satisfying job for a short period of time.

In other news, I need to get the big camera out more often. I've been resorting to the iPhone, since I always have it, but that means I have lots of blurry shots. Here we are, all sitting at the "big table" all together, now that Buster has graduated to a Kaboost and real chair.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Life is Incomplete without the Space Slug Oven Mitt

More craziness for chefs who are true fans of the Star Wars Saga:

The lightsaber bottle opener.

The Darth Vader BBQ apron.

and the pièce de résistance, the Space Slug Oven Mitt!

Bonus item: Hatch the Naboo sea monsters and watch them grow.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Compost Pressure

This represents possibly the most stressful part of my foreign workday.

After finishing lunch at the company cantina, everyone rapidly separates their discards into the compost bin, the trash bin, a recycling box, a slot for silverware, a tray for glasses, and a rack for the scraped plates.

You can see that there must have been a few non-locals earlier who didn't know where the recycling went and left their bottles on top of the trash can. I'm always setting down my glass first so that I have a free hand with which to deal with compost vs trash, but that puts me in the wrong place in the line and then I'm apologizing to everyone as I go against traffic and then return to locate the plate disposal.

It's all very eco and all, but I'm going to need another trip to master the post-meal aftermath. At least I got the hang of the salad bar this time (hint - walk clockwise.)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Home, Boys, Moose

It was a long day of travel on September 11, but thankfully uneventful. I even got on the right train to the airport this time.

I brought home moose backpacks for the boys, very fuzzy and soft.

Tusen tak (a thousand thanks) to SwingDaddy and my parents for holding down the fort while I was gone!

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Accidentally On Purpose

I went for a walk after dinner with my colleague tonight, and came across a neon sign. One of the letters was shaky and kept blinking in and out.

Blink. The sign says, "LAUGHTER." Blink. It says, "SLAUGHTER."

As I got closer, I saw that it was mounted on a piece of installation art in front of the Nobel Peace Center. The sign made no mention of the neon word above.

What do you think (without checking Wikipedia)? Deep, artistic juxtaposition of joy and sorrow? Or faulty wiring setup?

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Back Off, Bird

On my walk back from the fortress (yes, all these posts are about my two hour outing on Sunday, because you would less than thrilled to see photos of the conference rooms I've been inhabiting for the last three days), I stopped on a park bench to eat a baguette.

Two fat seagulls immediately stalked over and took places at my feet, looking expectantly. I was hungry and unwilling to share.

They stared at me. I stared back. I at my bread. They stared some more.

Finally, for the last bite, I got camera ready and threw a little piece. Pounce!

It makes me glad I'm not small enough to be their prey. Do you remember the seagulls from Finding Nemo? Mine, mine, mine!

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Cute Rocks

This is distinctly a city of rocks. Lots of stone in the buildings, and many of the active roads are still paved with cobbles.

This photograph of rocks is the artwork in my hotel room.

And these were resting on a seating area in the fortress visitor center. They looked kind of cuddly, so I squeezed one, and sure enough - plush rocks. Sadly, I didn't see any in the gift shop, so we won't have a nordic rock pillow to join the octopus family.

Monday, September 06, 2010

The Key Element of a Job Description

I'm back in northern Europe, and this time, I was determined to see some sights besides conference rooms. I arrived early enough on Sunday to catch an hour at the city's ancient fortress.

The massive stone walls (topped by 20th century brick reconstruction in many places) date back to 1290.

I took the audio tour, which started in a room described as the kitchen. The guide noted that working in the kitchen was an excellent job, because it was so well heated.

The next room room on the tour was for a tax and administrative overseer, which was also noted as a desired role, because he had his own fireplace.

Obviously, priorities are clear in a country with such a cold climate.

Fortunately, I enjoyed better weather yesterday.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Smiles on Wheels

On the road again, and missing my boys.

They accompanied me on an errand a few weeks ago (prior to the acquisition of their cool Clone Trooper shoes), and Buster got irritated with having to sit in the stroller. He wanted to stand "battle sled" style on the running board, like a big boy. Fortunately, his older brother, no dummy, took the chance to enjoy the nice cushy seat.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Mama Faces Her Fears

I survived my first KINDERGARTEN VOLUNTEER episode, and even kinda did ok. Mrs. Kindy Teacher handed me a stack of emergency cards labeled with the kids' names, photos, photos of parents and custodial contact information, and I tucked them into clear plastic sleeves with strings attached. If there's a disaster of some sort, each child will wear his/her card around the neck, easily labeled with who is allowed to retrieve them from school. Very clever.

Then I faced down the next assignment. Cutting construction paper! I almost panicked, but it turned out she didn't need shapes cut or traced (which was an assignment I had specifically not selected, since that would probably end up in some kind of abstract shape catastrophe with me on the scissors), but just required using the paper cutter. Straight lines! I can manage that. And math!

I cut 60 red rectangles, 120 little black rectangles, and 100 long black strips. Now and again, it's nice to have a specific, unambiguous task that one can actually complete without a trans-Atlantic treaty and four thousand hours of conference calls.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Finally, a Use for Phone Books

I can't remember the last time I looked something up in a phone book. However, I insist on keeping a set on hand in case the power fails and we don't have access to the internet to look up some kind of non-911 emergency service (like PG&E or a plumber) but we somehow still have telephone service and yet not a smartphone.

Anyway, we have a use for the phone books now. They make an excellent foot rest for a five year old starting piano lessons.