Sunday, June 30, 2013

Cake and Company

We celebrated SwingDaddy's birthday!

Since he's has been making pizza from scratch, we got him a pizza peel (those flat boards with a handle that allow you to insert and remove the pizza from the oven without everything falling to pieces or you burning yourself) and some sauces.

I spent a little time that morning sewing new reusable fabric gift bags, because we keep having to use Christmas bags and it seemed like it was time to get our act together for birthdays too.  I found some cheerful prints - little space aliens, and of course, some with sea creatures - jellyfish!

Some of his more techie gifts won't arrive in the mail for a while, but we had a nice day.  Cake and company!

(In a cake dome, even.)

Thanks to Fourth Breakfast for the photos of SwingDaddy and flowers.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Loving and Hating YA Lit

First, a bonus story:

Yesterday, Buster's dinner table conversation was a bit startling.

Buster: We saw our taekwondo masters without their clothes on!

Me, not panicking, since I am an experienced parent:  Oh. They weren't wearing their uniforms?
Buster: Nope
Me: What were they wearing?
Buster: Regular clothes.

It's not nearly as good a story with the follow up detail, but avoids having to race to the the martial arts studio with stern words.


Onto the main topic/rant:

I was once a voracious reader.  I consumed books.  Then I had children.

When I read books these days, I still gulp them down, but there are far longer spaces in between books than in the past, due to a combination of reading more on social media, taking care of the boys, and working a lot. So, that means that I'm pickier about what I read.  I probably read a lot of iffy books before in the past, but between a lot of great ones, it didn't matter.

A few recent books that come to mind:

I read all of the Twilight series, even though Bella was spineless and Edward and Jacob were so high maintenance.  The story was just really catchy, in spite of the somewhat insipid love triangle.

I read the Hunger Games series.  YA dystopia, government mandated roles, love triangle.  Loved the first one, and the sequels were pretty good.

I read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and enjoyed it, but stopped there because the violence was too graphic to really enjoy.

I read Matched, which was being called the next Hunger Games, and it was decent, but felt so derivative that I haven't been able to bring myself to read the sequels. YA dystopia, government mandated roles, love triangle.

Now, I'm reading Divergent, which is also being hailed as the next Hunger Games.  YA dystopia, government mandated roles.  So far, no love triangle.  High level of violence.  Somehow I'm finding the violence more irritating than in Hunger Games, which has the kids actually killing each other, so perhaps this author just isn't as deft.  So, to finish or not to finish?  The movie comes out later this year, so I might read it and see if it gets better.

And then I'm going to read some nice costuming books with gorgeous pictures.

P.S. As someone who specializes in organizations, I find the hyper categorization of people in all the dystopian tales to be somewhat hilarious.  The amount of bureaucracy to manage it would collapse under its own weight in about ten days.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Asian Americans! In Books!

May was Asian Pacific Heritage Month, and it's now late June, which as a Small Happenings Blogger, is about the right time for me to link to the blog carnival organized in its honor. I especially liked a post about Chinese American children's books.

Accordingly, here are a few books with Asian characters that our bookworm can recommend from the diverse selection at our local library:

Q-ster enjoyed Lenore Look's books about Ruby Lu and Alvin Ho.

He's never commented in particular about it being nice to read about other Chinese American kids, so I wonder if there's just a more varied set of literature at school these days.  In any case, I'm glad there are some Asian and Asian-American stories to mix in with Greek mythology and super hero tales.

He also enjoyed Maya Snow's Sisters of the Sword. Samurai!

We just borrowed Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, so we don't know if it's good or not, but Q-ster liked Grace Lin's other books - The Year of the Rat and the Year of the Dog.

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Ba-na-na, Papple!

More on Despicable Me . . . there's a short film all about the minions that we adore.  One of them brings a banana to lunch and the whole crew goes crazy over who gets to eat it.


After the mob scene goes by, another minion crunches on his apple,  and the noise alerts the rest to come chase over the next precious fruit.  Papple!

Since we are out of bananas, someone requested a whole apple (not cut up, please!) today for his snack.  Papple!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Minion Food

We watched "Despicable Me" over the weekend and all adore the minions.

They're such plucky can-do creatures, no matter what expedition they're trying to manage.

One could only wish for such darling helpers.  Even if they get distracted a bit easily. (Banana!)

I made a casserole the next day and the tater tots used for the topping look so chubby and cute that we've now dubbed it Minion Food.  (Something that the minions would like, not food made from minions - ick!)

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Old Friends Made New

We did a massive household sweep of ancient toys and worn-out clothes, culminating in a trip to drop of bags and bags at Goodwill.  I also have a nice collection of toys to bring to my colleague with a toddler and another for a friend with a baby. Woot!  More space in the house.

We also found a few things squirreled away that Q-ster outgrew and are now perfect for Buster - a spaceship and some puzzles.  We also found Grand Mal Seizure Elmo, and we'll probably keep him around for curiosity's sake for a little while longer.

After clearing out some space, SwingDaddy and Q-ster played a game of Arkham Horror on our nice, empty dining room table.

 . . . while Buster and I snuggled. We found Q-ster's Fluffalo tucked in a closet, and he was happy to pass it on to his little brother, who is the household lead for appreciating soft friends.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Ads, Oreos, and Squid Friends

A couple of weeks ago, I read an interesting article about how the advertising agency is being radically changed by the "second screen" experience.  People are checking their smartphones, tweeting with their friends during their favorite TV shows, looking up actors on IMBD - and completely ignoring the commercials.

So how should ad agencies respond?  There are new companies that engage viewers by having them "check in" to the app during specific commericals or shows and rewarding them with gift cards.  Other companies are active on Twitter.  Oreo had a social media win during the Superbowl by tweeting a photo with the caption "You can still dunk in the dark" during the power outage.

Oreo has also created a 90 second video of the "Wonderfilled Anthem," a charming song where the singer wonders what would happen if he gave a vampire an Oreo.  Would he want to drink milk instead? The song goes on to other little scenarios, and of course my favorite is when the giant squid gives Oreos to a shark and some baby seals, and they all hug and eat Oreos together.

 The point that the author of the Second Screen article makes is that this ad is so fun that you don't need to pay anyone to watch it.  You would click to see it again anyway.  And perhaps that is the future of advertising.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A Place for Cake

I have coveted these covered cake stands from Williams Sonoma for months, maybe years, flipping through their catalog and even visiting them at the store.  However, the small one costs $60 and full sized stand was so much that I blocked it out of mind.

This weekend, Macy's was having a half-price sale on their glassware, which was already priced lower anyway. I had to check it out.

I picked up all three items above: cake stand, mini cake stand, and three tiered stand for $60 total. Admittedly, I got somewhat carried away.  Or totally carried away.

Mixed in with a few simple bowls, the new gear made our brunch something fancy!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Lovies Over Time

Last weekend, I observed my nephew's collection of beloved blue mice, including the one that was relayed across half the globe to reach his loving home.  The more raggedy ones have been carefully retired.

When Q-ster was a baby, I bought two of the same soft blankets, cut one in half and edged it so that we could rotate between two smaller and easier-to-carry lovies. One to snuggle, and one for the laundry. The second full blanket was tucked away, just in case we needed a replacement.   I did the same for Buster, and this weekend, for some reason, both boys wanted "Big Blankie," so we got them out.

Buster's blankie, front and back sides.

In all the blankie pictures, the old half-sized blanket is resting on top of the mostly kept-aside second blanket.  Observe the wear and tear!  Buster in particular seems to have worn holes along the whole edge of his.  Happy snuggling to all.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Return of the Fearsomely Hip Hair Stylist

This time he wanted to cut this new style with angles, and I said, sure, why not.  Short will be fun for summer.

I like how you can see the other stylist in the background of the first picture, with her bright fuchsia hair. They are certainly a stylish set at this salon.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Chefs at Work

I arrived home on Friday evening and the boys were tossing up all the play food plus wooden blocks.  What was going on?  "We are Ninja Cookers!" exclaimed Buster.  And so they were, preparing tasty dishes for our admiration.

Happy Father's Day to all!

We had a lovely day, starting with hosting brunch at our house for my sister and her family, and finishing with homemade pizza for dinner.  SwingDaddy has mastered the dough.

We gave him a steampink cravat pin and the Geek Dad book of projects for dads and kids. I'm very intrigued by the proposal to build a mission out of cake.  (In California, all fourth graders complete a project where they construct a model of a mission for their history lessons.)

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Office Pros

Nanny J wasn't feeling very well today and my meeting schedule was light, so I brought the boys into the office with me.  They were really excited to get sandwiches (and chips!) at the cafeteria and settled into my office with their crayons and paper activities..

The whiteboard was popular too, although it was a tough balance on whether to keep the door closed (quieter for folks working nearby) or open (the marker smell is overwhelming!)

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

And That's a Wrap!

Q-ster has completed second grade!

His wonderful teacher held a farewell breakfast this morning for kids and parents.  As usual, everyone went overboard with provisions, resulting in boxes and boxes of cereal, donuts, crates of juice, fruit coming out of all corners.  It was very festive and fine way to say good-bye to a year that could have been challenging (a combined 1st/2nd grade class) and instead was pretty stellar.

It was great to be in the classroom almost every week - I had a much better sense for how Q-ster was doing and also got to see his emerging leadership skills.  I'll have to figure out how to manage next year, with two in school!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

One Done

Well, the micro dude is all finished with preschool.  How did that happen so fast?!

His last week was great - a field trip to the local pizzaria, where each child got to make a tiny pizza (and eat it!), lots more crafts, and a water day where they ran through sprinklers on the lawn.  Buster is pretty satisfied with his school experience and can't wait for kindergarten to begin.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Royals of the North

I'm an occasional fan of royals, largely because of the nice clothes, I think.  In any case, our favorite Nordic country has issued stamps in honor of the 40th birthday of the Crown Prince and Princess.

Plus, this weekend, Princess Madeleine of Sweden got married!  Her financier husband, Chris O'Neill, has declined a royal title, as he intends to stay in business while they continue to make their home in New York City.

He says that he's getting used to representing Sweden, and he's off to a good start.

Her older sister, Crown Princess Victoria and her husband Prince Daniel (who accepted a royal title after marriage, since his wife is heir to the throne and they take royal duties full time,) brought baby Princess Estelle.

It's said that the generation after next will all be queens - the first children of all the current Crown Princes and Princesses in the Scandinavian countries are girls.

Sunday, June 09, 2013


There's an outdated stereotype of the bumbling dad who can't fix his daughter's hair, but it's kind of opposite in our household.  SwingDaddy combs down the boys hair every morning, which as pictured above, is more exacting than you might imagine. 

On the other hand, I have often forgotten until we get out of the house, or even until we step out of the car at school.  The worse case - in May, SwingDaddy was out of town for the weekend, so I was solo with the boys, and I was sitting with Buster in the audience of Q-ster's piano recital while he was sitting with the other students on the other side of the room when I suddenly had the horrifying realization that I hadn't combed the boys hair that morning. 

I looked over at Buster.  His hair looked ok.  Surely I would have noticed if his brother's hair was crazy.  A few songs later, it was Q-ster's turn and I breathed a sigh of relief as he walked to the front of the room, looking tidy.

(This wasn't the graduation recital last week, it was a earlier, smaller one.)

And yes, the hair can get crazy.  That's Buster above.  And I have come across Q-ster in the morning as he looks in the mirror and sighs, "Chickenhair," as it stands on end like a rooster's comb.

Still, that's easier than long hair.  My colleague's wife often travels and he's highly competent with getting his son and daughter to daycare in the morning, but one time there was a festival day that required a fancy dress and fancy hair hair-do.  The dress, he managed, but the hair was a bit more of a challenge.  When they arrived at school, the teacher kindly smiled and said, "On our own this morning, I see."

Thursday, June 06, 2013

An Octopus on One's Head

Once upon a time, Madame A forwarded me a photograph of a woman wearing a top hat with goggles and an octopus intertwined, and I've coveted it ever since.  We met up with the designer a few months ago and I commissioned a version for myself.  Since I'm a smaller person, we chose a lady's riding hat with veil, and added a treasure motif with shells and gems.

How could anything be more perfect than to wear an octopus on one's head?  Now I just have to design the appropriate steampunk outfit to go with it.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

May the Force Be with You and You and You

Lightsaber popsicles!  Summer is right around the corner.

Although sometimes, we simply must snuggle with our favorite blankets and octopuses, even when it's warm outside.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

More Artistic Endeavors

Q-ster performed his Suzuki Piano book 2 graduation recital this weekend!  It's quite an ambitious set of pieces to perform, ending with a nice Beethoven Sonatina.

In other media . . . Buster is on a drawing kick.

We were each presented with our own labeled portrait. To MOMMY!