Monday, December 31, 2012


Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Harvest Skills

Well, we've got two new orange pickers for the winter crop.  Five bags, so far, and most of the tree is still untouched!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Is She Ever Going to Catch Up?

No, I will always be woefully behind and we will be looking at Christmas pictures well into the spring.  But anyway, here's Christmas Eve.

One of my favorite parts of Christmas is seeing all the pictures in the cards sent by friends and family.  The kids are all getting so big!

Carrots for the reindeer, milk and cookies (with extra sprinkles) for Santa - all on the little plate beside Q-ster.

Reading Twas the Night Before Christmas together.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Fuzzy Friends

Buster made several wistful comments about how Mommy has a big octopus and a big jellyfish, and he has a little octopus and wouldn't it be nice if he had a little jellyfish too?  So it only seemed appropriate for a little jellyfish to arrive for Christmas. We also acquired a new little octopus, because the one we got him last year is becoming a hygiene risk.  We took a family photograph and allowed the much loved octopus to retire and get some rest.

The micro dude hugged his new friends and said, "This is all I ever wanted."

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Darth Santa

We hit the very last Lego Star Wars Advent treat on Monday - Darth Maul as Santa!

The operating rule was that the boys had to be dressed and ready for breakfast before they could open their Lego surprises, so we will certainly miss these little brick packages.  It sure made getting everyone ready in the morning a brisk process.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Other Kind of Elf

When we went to get our Christmas tree a few weeks ago, the proprietor put Santa hats on the boys, with amusing results.

Q-ster struck a charming pose.

If you zoom out though, you can see that his brother is looking on suspiciously.

And rightly so, because he got hatted next.

We found a good tree.

And hooray for the minivan!  The tree fit inside.

And this year, I was able to hang up my favorite glass ornaments (higher up) along with our Star Wars, pirate, and less breakable decorations (lower on the tree.)

We're ready for Christmas!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Antlers and Seed Cake

 I volunteer in Q-ster's classroom for an hour most Thursday mornings to prep the "Thursday envelopes," which send a week's worth of classwork and announcements home to parents.  I like getting to watch the class in action and of course, hone my alphabetizing skills.  One of the perks of working insanely weird hours is getting to take a little time off during the day.  

Today, all the children were wearing antlers and it was just adorable.  I managed to snap one blurry image before Q-ster ran off to join his friends.

Last week, we took some of my international colleagues to brunch at Denny's, as they requested an American experience.  Denny's is running a Hobbit promotional, which seems like a highly tenuous connection, but I did order "Seed Cake French Toast," since I've always dreamed of sharing some of Bilbo's seed cakes.  Mmmm.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Yes, I Mean No, I Mean Yes

Filling out the American Community Survey for the US Census Bureau.

Because of a physical, mental, or emotional condition, does this person have serious difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions?

Yes, um, no, um yes.  What was the question again?

I guess it's not nice to joke about it, but after what seems like 20 pages of questions, we got a little silly.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Little Signs of Christmas

Like last year, we've been loving our Star Wars Lego Advent Calendars. While I'm not crazy about finding even MORE Lego scattered around the house, there is something charming about how they manage to convey something as complicated as an AT-AT in just a few pieces.

Monday, December 17, 2012

50 Shades of Shopping, Plus Elk

 As I mentioned yesterday, I had a little time to stroll the (very, very, very  cold) streets of my usual Scandinavian capital city earlier this month.

Interesting that the most popular book there is also Fifty Shades of Grey.

And that it's three times more expensive to read it in the local language than in English!

Elsewhere, have some Elk Burgers.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Lights in the North

I've managed to get almost hopelessly behind on posts.  Life happens faster than blogging these days, but I wanted to capture a bit more of my last trip to Scandinavia.

Side note -To recap, I haven't been referencing the country/city directly, because I'd like to keep my blog from popping up if my local co-workers search on those terms when planning their trips.  I don't write about work, so it wouldn't really be an issue if they did, but it's just as well that I don't need to worry about my boss worrying how I'm getting my work done if the boys are sick or something.  Although I suppose that probably wouldn't be an issue because he mostly tells me not to work as much.  And I think it would actually be fun for my northern colleagues to read what I've experience of their country and comment. Anyway. 

My path from train station to hotel takes me past the Palace, so it's almost always the first thing I take a picture of when I arrive.  This is 4pm, about 40 minutes after sunset on the 1st of December.  I'm not sure why there is that semicircular streak in the sky - probably some kind of reflection with my camera.

Later in the evening:

It was nice to see the city all lit up with Christmas decorations. I'd still like to see the real Northern Lights some day, but that takes luck, as well as being even further north.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Redundantly Labeled Food

Adorable smoothies that are called "Cuties."  Awwww.

Anyone know how they taste?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Ironman or Spiderman?

I find those decals that you see everywhere on rear car windows kind of irritating. Ok, you family people with two boys, a girl, two cats and a goldfish, that's very nice.  I hope you can still see out your window.

Of course, ThinkGeek had to up the ante and develop Marvel Superhero decals.  You can be a Spiderman family, Wolverine family, an Ironman family, or a Dysfunctional family.  (Ha!)

I'm not really sure what we'd be. Buster would want Batman of course, but that's DC, not Marvel. Perhaps that is the true mixed family, DC and Marvel!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Open Faced Sandwich

Buster likes cucumbers a lot and has been requesting cucumber sandwiches for lunch.  Really though, he's been using the bread as more of a cucumber conveyance device that can be reloaded with crisp green slices, so I started just giving him one piece of bread to cut down on the number of slices that need to be tossed afterwards.

The open faced sandwich is a tradition of our Scandinavian friends, after all.  Buster heard me say that, so he insisted that the open faced sandwich should have a face.  We obliged.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

New Foods, Tasty and Less So

Home! And enjoying the northern delicacy "pepperkaker" (gingerbread cookies) with the boys.  They were a thank-you gift from ex-pat colleagues who were grateful for me bringing them good ol' Nyquil and Robitussen.

Somewhat less successful: A sort of Kaviar-in-a-tube that another colleague insisted was beloved by all children.  Well, at least we tried it.  After answering an extra dozen questions during immigration ("are you carrying any meat products?") too!

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Real Winter

I've just wrapped up a week in the cold north, with temperatures ranging from 1 to 17 degrees Fahrenheit.  A bit chilly for this California girl.  Thank heavens for my polarthin jacket and100% wool legwarmers courtesy of a knitter on Etsy.

Here is what greeted me at the train station:

Each concrete column in that passageway was adorned with the image of a different dwarf from The Hobbit, and the wall was festooned with the whole lot of them, plus Bilbo and Gandalf.

I also managed to not get crushed by a revolving door this time, which made for a much more pleasant entrance into the country.

I've acquired a new warm hat and a pepperkaker (gingerbread cookie) on a stick, after watching an increasing number of children munching away at these giant heart shaped treats.  I can manage a week at these temperatures, but I will be very grateful to get home tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012


A couple weeks ago, Q-ster watched the cartoon version of the Hobbit and is totally hooked on the story.  He's finally grown into the adventuring jacket that the grandparents got him when he was crazy for Indiana Jones, and he's acquired the play knife from the toy kitchen set to stand in for Bilbo's blade Sting.

Hand-drawn map of Middle Earth.

We think he's too young to see the new Hobbit movie in the theater, since it's likely to be pretty intense, but we all watched the happy opening section (hobbit life, the fireworks at the party) of The Lord of the Rings on DVD and enjoyed that as a family.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

We Love Science

Another highlight of Thanksgiving break was a family trip to the science center.

We played with balls.

Built a giant carbon nanotube.

We watched a great documentary in the dome theater about how scientists discovered the migration path of monarch butterflies with the help of "citizen scientists" who tagged and reported butterflies across North America from the 1950's through the 1970's.  Crowdsourcing, back in the days when it was done by ads in newspapers and snail mail.

And we sat in differently scaled chairs.  We never did discover what principle we were suppose to learn about them, but they were kind of cool.

This was the littlest chair on the pedestal, carefully labeled, "Please do not sit here."

Scientists - nothing but thorough.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Fun in Copper

Q-ster 's main request for the holiday was to make some "squished pennies," so we located a few machines scattered around the zoo.  You insert two quarters to operate the machine and a penny for source material, select your pattern of choice, and turn the crank.

Buster started his collection today.

And his big brother added to his collection.

I have to thank my mom for this idea.  It's an entirely affordable and fairly entertaining way of generating souvenirs that don't take up much space.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Tortoises and Camels and Bears, Oh My!

While visiting family over the Thanksgiving holiday, we paid a visit to the world-famous zoo.

Buster enjoyed crawling in the model ice flow and popping up next to the sculpture of a seal.

There were a whole lot of fabulous Galapagos tortoises, some of which were moving with surprising zippiness.  I had to look up what you call a group of tortoises and learned a few things at the California Turtle and Tortoise Club:

In common usage in the United States, the word turtle is an inclusive word that refers to all species of water turtle, sea turtle, box turtle, terrapin and tortoise. The word tortoise refers to a particular type of turtle that is well adapted to life on land.


Although people who keep pet turtles tend to use the collective term "herd" to refer to a group of turtles, the classic collective term is a "bale of turtles."

Buster seems to have an affinity for the animal sculptures, so we hung out with the tortoise for a bit too.  Just one, not a bale of them.

I'm more accustomed to seeing one-hump camels in zoos, so it was fun to see a few two-hump fellows walking around.

A good time was had by all!