Thursday, January 31, 2013

Entering the Realm of Slapstick Lord of the Rings

Scene: Children with foam swords, all damaged from previous over-use.

Boy, racing into the room: "Anduril!"
He brandishes a sword, which promptly falls apart. He exclaims, "Narsil!"

What a geeky parent's delight!

Footnote, for those who are less obsessive about fantasy fiction: Narsil is the Blade-That-Was-Broken in the LOTR flashback, and Anduril is the repaired version that Aragon takes to battle.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Tooth Truth

In Q-ster's second grade class, each child writes a little story when he or she loses a tooth and it goes into the class "Tooth Book."  This one reads as follows:

My name is Q-ster.  I am 7 years old.  I lost a tooth and this is how it happened.
I was playing a game of lights with my brother and he kicked me in the mouth so it fell out.

Right. His teacher is going to love this one.

Of course, he neglects to mention that this tooth was wiggling all week and was practically falling out of his mouth prior to the incident, but I guess it makes for a better story this way.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

This is What a Jello All-Nighter Looks Like

We attended a theme party a few weeks ago (more on that later) where the hostess went nuts in preparing a seven layer jello dessert.  It took her one hour per layer to chill. 

Aren't they beautiful?  They were so perfect that I thought they were colored goblets.  The boys were thrilled.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Italian Dinner of Surprises

When we got married, among all the lovely kitchen-themed wedding presents were an assortment of pasta measurers. I think they were added to various gifts because they're sort of clever looking and not something you'd necessarily get for yourself. And, as a person who is fond of organizing-type items, I really liked the idea of this tool. 

Sadly, neither SwingDaddy nor I could actually successfully use a pasta measurer - I mean really, what do you do?  Do you pour out a bunch of spaghetti from the box and stuff it through the measuring device and then sweep up everything that fell on the floor?  Do you take little clumps of noodles and thread them through the hole until you have enough to fill one? It was just never less than a mess, so we ended up giving away these little wooden torture devices that taunted us with the possibility that we could have accurately portioned noodles.

Jump ahead a decade of varying levels of spaghetti accuracy, we were cooking for the four of us plus SwingDaddy's parents, and discussing how to guess what the new portion should be.  We survived the evening, but two weeks later, they kindly mailed us a new measurer.

This one is a container in which you store the pasta.  When you pop the lid off, there's a little insert that allows a portion to slide out.

 We were skeptical, but gave it a try.

We poured out two "2" portions, and what do you know? We ended up with just the right amount!  (Actually, we had a little extra, but Buster doesn't eat full sized portions of noodles yet.)  So, hooray and thank you!

And as if that wasn't enough mystery for one meal, SwingDaddy had purchased a loaf of garlic bread at the market.

We noticed that it had an unusual label: "Apple Pie, 9 Inch Slice." We speculated for a while on whether the package would turn into an apple pie after heating.

No, but bread was better with dinner anyway.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Jonathan Coulton vs Glee, Dinner Parties, More Octopuses

The return of non sequitur theater:

I've been a fan of several Glee episodes (I haven't watched enough to say I know the whole series that well,) so I'm horrified that they've stolen Jonathan Coulton's arrangement of Sir Mix-a-lot's Baby Got Back.  The original song is a rap with no melody, so it's completely clear that it's his version with his adaptation of the lyrics ("Johnny C's in trouble" instead of "Mix-a-lot's in trouble"), and in addition, it seems they've even used some of his backing tracks.  It helps to have a big online presence of geeks, because someone did a fairly sophisticated audio analysis, and it doesn't look good for the Glee production team.

This apparently isn't the first time they've taken an arrangement and given no credit, but JoCo may be the musician with high enough a profile that Fox will need to respond.  He's got stories on CNN,  Forbes, and Wired, at this point. JoCo re-released his version of the song on iTunes, with the promise to donate proceeds to charity, and so far it's trending higher than the Glee version.  We've enjoyed his music (songs about squids! lobsters! techie folks!) and seen him in concert - good luck to you, sir.

Love, love, love these images of a pop-up dinner party with a view of the Golden Gate bridge.  It looks breathtaking.

I told SwingDaddy, "I want to do that!"
After some more chatter, we recognized that no, I don't really want to host that party.  I want to attend that party.  I think I will set my sights on a somewhat less ambitious event that doesn't require hauling furniture and a gas heater down to a beach.

As we all know, the micro due loves his octopus and jellyfish and blankie dearly, carrying them around everywhere he goes in the house.  The snuggle friends have lots of handholds, being multi-limbed, so they're easy to grab and go.

However, the boy is easily distracted, so if he sees something he wants to do, he simply opens his arms, and the creatures drop to the ground, leaving this as a common view around our house.

Come get your snuggle friends, Buster!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Flame On

There are two Lego exclusives that are sold only in New York City - a little taxicab, which I brought home for the boys after BlogHer last summer, and a small Statue of Liberty, which was the travel gift from this month's trip. (And no, I don't always bring something home, but New York is an easy place to shop.)

Buster added a platform underneath to represent an island ("since the statue is on an island, really, Mom!") and some blue to be the water.

Later, he also got a bit carried away, deciding that the flame that came with the set was insufficiently dramatic.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Really, There are Other Things to Complain About

This falls into the category of Problems That are So First World that they almost defy explanation:

It costs $19 for new iPhone 5 "Lightning" recharging cable.
It costs $29 for an adapter to convert an existing cable to a Lightning connector.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Babies of 2012

I've always loved names, variations of names, and lists of names, probably dating from childhood times I spent writing lots of stories or imaging new characters.

The top baby names of 2012 in the USA, according to Baby Center:

1. Sophia
2. Emma
3. Olivia
4. Isabella
5. Ava
6. Lily
7. Zoe
8. Chloe
9. Mia
10. Madison

1. Aiden
2. Jackson
3. Ethan
4. Liam
5. Mason
6. Noah
7. Lucas
8. Jacob
9. Jayden
10. Jack

They note that "To capture true popularity, our exclusive baby names list combines names that sound the same but have multiple spellings (like Sophia or Sofia.) Our data comes from nearly half a million parents who shared their baby's name with us in 2012."

 And for more fun,  the top baby names in our favorite Nordic country in 2012:

Nora / Norah - 438
Emma - 436
Sofie / Sophie - 427
Linnea / Linea - 395
Sara / Sahra / Sarah - 352
Emilie - 347
Ingrid / Ingri - 346
Thea / Tea - 338
Leah / Lea - 325
Sofia / Sophia - 322

Lucas / Lukas - 527
Emil - 424
Mathias / Matias - 424
Jonas - 424
Alexander / Alexander - 385
William - 373
Oskar / Oscar - 373
Magnus - 368
Markus / Marcus - 367
Oliver - 355

The number by each name is the actual number of babies given that name.  It give you an interesting perspective on scale, since I think there are around 4 million babies born in the US each year, so there must be thousands of American Sophias to top the list in comparison to the 438 Noras to top the second list.

Sophia, Emma, and Lucas seem to be international favorites!

When we named the boys, we just picked names we liked and thought sounded good with our other names, but we also wanted something in the top one hundred (people can pronounce it) but not in the top ten (there aren't twelve kids with the same name in class.)  I'm always interested in people choose names!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Four More Years

It was great to be home together on Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday and watch Obama's second inauguration. The boys sat through the speeches relatively well, with some good questions from Q-ster, and the promise of songs in between each speech helped a lot.

My favorite tweets:

"Why is Kelly Clarkson singing?"
Response: "America elected her too!"

Obama gave an incredibly inclusive speech.  Let's keep working towards health, wealth, social justice for all.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Geography Lessons

I'm totally loving the video explanations of C.G.P. Grey on various things.  Here are a few of my favorites:

The difference between Holland and the Netherlands.  (Hint, Holland is a part of the Netherlands.)

The United Kingdom and a Whole Lot More, which explains what part is England, what part is Great Britain, and then the UK.

I also liked the explanation of the True Cost of the British Royal Family, which actually turns a profit for the nation.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Polka Dot Frenzy

Last winter, I saw the most perfect umbrellas for sale in a display by the entrance of Nordstrom Rack.  Black and white polka dots with red trim.  They were lovely, but I really didn't need another umbrella, so I just looked at them longingly every time I walked by for two months.  There were fewer and fewer of them, and finally they were all sold out.

I regretted not getting one.  I often try to delay a purchase to see if I'll still even remember what I had briefly wanted in the store, but this definitely passed the test - I want a polka dot umbrella!

Now it's winter again, and guess what?  They were back!  I paid my $20 and took one home right away.  It's a big, deep umbrella, and the only way it could be more perfect is if cute octopuses were cavorting around the polka dots.

In semi-related news, I saw this Kate Spade MacBook Air sleeve at the Apple store while I waited for my colleagues to make their purchases. Black and white polka dots with a red lining!  (The pink stripe is just the cardboard wrapped to hold the price tag.)  Not enough reason to get a MacBook Air, of course, but nice to admire from afar.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Lady M Bakes


I'm in New York for work this week, and we had dinner at a steakhouse with interesting decorations.

There were thousands of pipes mounted on the walls and ceiling.  At some point, club members kept their pipes in the club, and today, there are still labeled celebrity pipes behind glass.  Fortunately, there is no lingering smoke smell.

I've wanted to visit the Lady M (no relation) bakery in NYC and haven't ever had a chance, but look at the dessert menu!

A closeup.

I couldn't resist taking a bite before taking a picture.  Yum!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Bedside Reading

My nightstand book stack is wildly out of control post-Christmas and birthday.  Books, delicious books!

The Hollywood Sketchbook is a beautifully illustration history of the work of motion picture costume designers and illustrators.  It's fun to see the scribbles on the sides of the pages - "more sequins here!" or "turn over for pocket detail!" The author points out that when you see a perfect costume sketch where the character is in a pose you'd recognize from a movie still, the drawing was requested after the fact - it's not usually the original design sketch.

The book also weighs about 30 pounds, so one has to begin a fitness regime in order to read it.

I picked up the history of the Plantagenets (King Richard III and family) at a Barnes and Noble close-out sale.  I've had some interest in that ruling family since I read "Daughter of Time," in middle school, a mystery that made the case that Richard III innocent of murdering the Princes in the Tower.

The Scandinavian Folklore book came home with me from Europe in December, after a folklore visit museum.  The costume photos are gorgeous.

Always glad to have more to read.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Cutie Octopus

My sister gave an octopus for my birthday, which breaks our sealife moratorium, but I think you will agree that he's so adorable that we made an exception.

Buster calls him "the cutie octopus" and he's been welcomed with open arms by the other octopuses. I came into the room one day and saw they had been arranged thus:

In the mornings, Buster makes an octopus and jellyfish delivery - he brings all the plush friends to our bed and then climbs on all of us to snuggle.  Our new friend has joined the festivities!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Shoe Concepts

I'm fascinated by the "Nike Studio Wrap" that they plan to release in the spring.  The picture above (from InStyle) is just gorgeous, and even through I know that no pair of shoes is going to automatically make me be able to work out en pointe, it's still intriguing.

The idea is that with so many people working out in studios, presumably doing yoga, there is more of a need for something that gives you the floor connection of bare feet, but the hygiene of a foot cover, albeit one that doesn't protect your toes.The ribbons are ostensibly for support, but I think it's mostly to attract the attention of the not-insignificant portion of the female population who spent an idle moment dreaming of being a ballerina.  I don't know if they'll actually be useful, but they sure are pretty.

I'm normally much more of a red shoe person, but this week, two pairs of pinks have gotten my second glance.  I saw a review of great travel products that included the Teva Jordanelle.  They are snow boots that weigh in super light and pack down small in suitcases.  I would be very tempted, since I only wear winter boots overseas and it would be great to have a suitcase-space-saving pair that are so cute, but again, I only wear them when far from home, and therefore not very often.  The less glamorous but perfectly functional pair I bought last year will do just fine.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

My Babies

We've been doing a big overhaul of the boys' rooms.  New desks, chairs, curtain rods, curtains . . . cleaning out too-small clothes, baby items, baby toys, toddler books, all sorts of nonsense. I kept finding bags inside boxes inside bins, every one of which containing one domino, two playing cards, a dozen Lego, a piece of train track, and some Monopoly money.  How was it possible that one set of dominoes could get so evenly distributed around the house?

In any case, I also unearthed two very small knit hats.  Q-ster came home from the hospital in the left cap, and Buster came home from the hospital wearing the one on the right.  These, I'm keeping.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Nice, Friendly Lego

Buster made out like a bandit on Lego for Christmas, and most of it was his very favorite, BATMAN, with one exception.

I'd noticed that he was quite intrigued with the Lego Friends cafe set that I'd gotten last year, even having one of his snake-head demon characters take the role of short order cook and serve up meals to the ninjas sitting around the little Lego table.  SwingDaddy had acquired a couple of free "fill the box with any pieces you want from the open bins at the Lego store" packets, and Buster had chosen quite a number of flowers, building a sort of greenhouse for them.

So when he expressed interest in the Lego Winter Cottage, we jumped on it.  Hooray!  A Lego set not focused on weapons or war! (If you don't count the miniature chain saw that is meant for Christmas tree chopping.)

This was kind of a huge set, and he worked on it for days.

I like the moose artwork next to the Christmas tree.


Monday, January 07, 2013

Even More Elves and Mythos

This was posted on Q-ster's door earlier this week.  Yep, they are Angerthas runes from The Lord of the Rings.  I can't really poke fun at this because I know someone who kept a whole summer's worth of journal entries in those runes herself, and um, I dug out that notebook for the little dude to see.  We pulled out the key from the LOTR appendix and could decipher it surprisingly well together.

I made a couple of errors on the first page (still getting used to the code,) and Q-ster noticed them immediately.  "Mom, you made a mistake!" It was fun for him to see what I wrote from so long ago - decades ago!

He got several amazing Hobbit/LOTR Lego sets for Christmas, but I think my favorite is this rendition of Mount Doom that he designed himself.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Getting Way Out Of Hand

SwingDaddy and I have been fans of J.R.R. Tolkien since we were kids, and we'll have to admit responsibility for drawing the boys into the fold, perhaps a bit early.  Q-ster is doing his best to read The Lord of the Rings now, since he's finished The Hobbit, but dude, it's a pretty tough book for his age.

Anyhow, I found some costume jewelry rings and Q-ster raided his old pirate treasure stash, and he and his little brother have taken to wearing them around their necks like Frodo.  Q-ster made his necklace out of Lego "chains," and I made for for Buster from a ribbon and some Velcro.

I can't recall which is supposed to be the Elvish ring, the Dwarvish ring, and the one for mortal man,but they've declared the big one to be the Ring of Power, the One Ring to Rule them all. They have one each, so I'm not sure how that works.  I don't think they've thought that hard about it.

Certainly, there is great humor, because Buster has a new ruler in his desk drawer, and he bought it out to show me yesterday - "This is the One Ruler to Rule them all!"


Thursday, January 03, 2013

Learning About the Work World

SwingDaddy headed back to work after the holidays yesterday, but I took another day off.  Since his office is near the taekwondo studio, we dropped by for a brief visit before class.  Above, they admire the wall of snacks, followed by a swift request for Rice Krispy treats.

Of course, Buster had to try the spiral slide that goes from the second floor to the first.

SwingDaddy's boss saw the boys in uniform, so he challenged them to a martial arts battle in the break room.  Eventually, a truce was called and I took them to their class.

Slides, Rice Krispy treats, TKD in the office - work is a lot of fun!