Monday, September 30, 2013

Looney Octo-Ballooney

SwingDaddy rode 100 miles in a cancer fundraiser this weekend!  He raise a good sum of money for the university cancer institute (where he and many of our friends were treated in the past) and got to ride with some fun pros.

Buster and I joined him at the post-ride gathering while we were waiting to pick up Q-ster from a laser-tag birthday party.  We spied a balloon artist while his booth was empty and approached.

Buster couldn't think of what to ask him for, so the artist observed the octopus on the little guy's t-shirt and offered to make him a balloon octopus.


First, he made the head out of what seemed to be an alien face.  Then he made the legs - I love this curling technique:

First, he pumped up the long balloons to loosen up the latex and let them deflate.  Then he wrapped the deflated balloon around a tube.

And pumped it up, slowly releasing it as it filled, resulting in a curly balloon.  It took some time to prep all the legs, and a crowd had gathered to observe.

Then he wrapped the four long balloons in half around the head, creating an eight legged octopus!

Buster was pretty delighted!  And we are all proud of SwingDaddy.

On our way out, we passed by the balloon tent and let the artist know that everyone had been very impressed by the octopus.  He grinned and pointed at a little kid walking off . . . carrying an octopus too!  Apparently, they were now in high demand.

Sunday, September 29, 2013


In this case, it's supposed to be matchy-matchy: one's makeup.  I saw an an in InStyle for Sephora's Color IQ event, so I stopped in the store while I was at the mall over the weekend.  I thought there would be a long line and a long process, but it surprisingly and kind of unceremoniously quick.

The makeup artist held a special scanner to my skin at neck, cheek, and forehead, and in about two seconds, the computer emailed me a list of 15-20 makeup products that would "perfectly" match my skin tone.  Now I know why marketers sometimes add the appearance of complexity, so that you feel like you're getting a lot of value.

I've actually used two of the products on the list before (one by Clinique and one by Smashbox,) so perhaps the list will be handy in the future. The plus side of the fast process was that I didn't feel obligated to spend a lot of money at the store, since I hadn't used up more than a moment of the makeup artist's time.

I wonder if you're supposed to get rematched when the seasons change, for tanned and untanned skin, or if sunblock has changed the equation so much that most people don't look that different year-round.  My problem is that I love the idea of makeup much more than actually learning how to apply it well or wear it any differently than my usual routine.  Time and money saved, I guess!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Eating Pack

After a period of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Q-ster now prefers to bring hot food for lunch at school.  The little thermos we got last year has been working well, but I wasn't so pleased with the disposable fork in a baggie that we'd been throwing in his lunchbag.  I wanted some kind of container that would keep the utensil clean on the way to school and keep the rest of the lunch bag from getting food-y from the used utensil on the way home.

Check out our new find for $5.

When you open it up, there are a lot of pieces - the head of a fork, knife, and spoon, plus two handle pieces and two other long pointy pieces.

You can attach the two handle pieces to any front piece - giving you a fork and knife at the same time, or a fork and spoon.

Or attach the two handles to the long pointy pieces and get a pair of chopsticks!

For daily use, I've set aside the chopsticks and knife (since that would violate the school zero tolerance policy for weapons anyway,) and he'll either take just the fork or the fork and spoon to school.  So far, he's used it for one week and it's working out pretty well!

In related cute lunch gear news, we also got a few small tubs for the boys to bring carrots (and other things) to school.  The dry snack containers we have weren't up to holding carrots, which are often damp, and I hate to waste so many baggies.  So now we are prepared to be carroty too.  (The big tub is mine, since I"m trying to snack more healthily at work.)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Portrait of a Young Golfer

Mini golf, that is.

We took Buster and his cousin to play, and no one smacked anyone else on the head with a golf club or a ball, accidentally or on purpose.  Win!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Bal Musette avec Mes Amis

We went dancing with friends over the weekend - the second time in two months!  Many thanks to my parents, who played with the boys and put them to bed.

We were gathered for the farewell performance of our favorite Bal Musette band in its present incarnation.  It was a concert in an auditorium, but we were hoping there'd be a little space to dance.  Sure enough, there was a bit of space and we were mentioned in the program!

Gotta love the attention to detail - D's faux cigarette even glows orange.

This was us with the band in 1997.

And here we are with them Saturday night.  Wonderful times.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Not a Newspaper

A couple of years ago, I was out to dinner with some of my Scandinavian friends at this restaurant that was all about local ingredients and traditions with a twist, you know the kind.  Borderline pretentious, but mostly in good fun.

One of the appetizers was toasted bread, wrapped on a stick.  My companions explained that it's actually one of their camping customs.  You bring dough, wrap it on a stick, and toast it over the campfire. Very charming, and tasty too.

As I munched away on the bread and reached the supporting stick, I exclaimed, "It's a REAL stick!"

Everyone laughed.  "Of course it is a real stick.  What else would it be?  Our country is filled with forests."

"In the US," I explained, "This would be a piece of plastic, carefully shaped to look like a stick.  And it would probably be stamped 'Made in China.' Because who knows where that stick has been . . Is it clean?  Could someone get a splinter from it and sue?"

They thought this was kind of hilarious, but acknowledged that I was probably right.

Of course I was right.  Saturday night, SwingDaddy and I went out with some friends and someone ordered a basket of fries, which came in a basket lined with newspaper - traditional fish'n'chips style.

Or was it newspaper?

No, it was not.  It was wax paper, printed on the outside with decorative graphics to make a faux newspaper.

That's how we roll in this country!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Jamba Intensity

Torn between really, really wanting to enjoy  Jamba Juices and having the icy treats giving them chills, the boys resolved the problem by putting on their new fleecy jackets while slurping.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Bath Bombs

At the end of August, we said good-bye to a Scandinavian colleague who had spent a month here with his family, and he kindly brought presents for the boys.  Bathtime fun! (Plus, an octopus mascot!)

The brand seems to be "Tinti," which may or may not have the same meaning as in English - Tints, or changes of colors.  The first was a colored bath foam.  We think it might be soap, but we're not sure since I didn't run the label through Google translate.  In any case, the boys had fun.  I had them start in the sink, but later, they demanded full-on baths with the second gift.

I know of them as "bath bombs."  Put them in the water and you get some fizzing, scents, and a lot of color, all in a matter of moments.

Shortly after, the entire bathtub was fuchsia.  The boys were delighted with the vivid colors.

Here's the yellow one in the sink.

A few days later, Buster requested that my colleague come back to visit again, and that "he should bring presents."  I'm glad that he's fond of my co-workers, but perhaps the gift aspect has been overemphasized.

"We're out of bath bombs, Mommy," he explained.  Then he paused, clearly very pleased with himself for figuring something out. "Hey, we should go to Bath Bombs Dot Com.  I bet we could find some there!"

Our little Internet citizen.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Flashback to Orlando - Wildlife Edition

When we were at Disneyworld last summer, we stayed at a hotel within the ground of their Animal Kingdom resort, which meant that we saw really cool creatures every time we stood on the hotel balcony.

We saw lots of great giraffes.  Zebras and ostriches too, although I didn't get any remarkable pictures of those.

The flamingos were having some kind of showing-off drama.

And when they would raise their wings, they were bright pink and black underneath.

This is a sable antelope, the source of the sable coats so fashionable in the early 20th century.  So, they're on the endangered species list.  I had no idea sable came from antelopes - I thought it was a little furry animal like a mink.

I think this one is a Pushmepullyou, from Dr. Doolittle.

Our wizardly animal observers.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Intelligent Octopus

This has been circulating for a while, but it is a simply amazing view of octopus camouflage in action.  You see . . . It's a plant . . . it's a plant . . . it's a plant . . . OCTOPUS!  Check out the video, at least the first ten seconds. It's so cool that they change the texture of their skin, not just the color.

And in other octopus news, I think I'm getting a copy of Cowboy and Octopus for Buster (and me) for Christmas. With a title like that, how could you go wrong?

Monday, September 16, 2013

Froggy and Friends

SwingDaddy and Q-ster spent the weekend at the Reno Air Races, so Buster and I had a cozy weekend at home - Lego, Cheerios, and lots of snuggles.  (SwingDaddy isn't particularly fond of the smell of oats, so we wait until he's out of town to indulge in Cheerios.)

We made a special lunch too. According to Buster's new literary friend Froggy, the best lunch is a hot dog and flies, since he is a frog, after all.  We simulated the flies with raisins.

Buster's piano teacher has him do a exercise where he taps his fingers one at a time to a rhyme called "Munchy Mouse," which builds strength in his little fingers.  She has a tiny toy mouse made of fuzzy grey felt that she puts under his hand to remind him to keep his palm up.

We've been using random items to take the place of Munchy Mouse, so he decided to make himself one out of Lego.  You can just see the small grey ears that he put on top of the brick, which has a special extension piece to hold the red nose.  Perfect.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Musings on Lego

I finally finished a half written post started in early 2012, when Lego Friends, a line aimed at girls, was released and caused great controversy about whether Lego was contributing to the ghetto-ization of toys for girls. Accompanying pictures are from back then too.

Being a huge fan of Legos, as a child and now as a parent, the Lego Friends made me curious, so I bought the City Park Cafe set for myself (this is Mommy's!) and built it while the boys hovered nearby.

I had a blast. The construction is clever, the pieces all interwork with the original Lego, and it's amazing what a slight change to the color palette - addition of pink and pale blue - can do to the overall look.

The existence of a cafe set and the other Lego Friends offerings - a treehouse, horse ranch, pet shop, school - are really important, because there are very few Lego series that aren't about war and weapons these days. There's Star Wars, pirates, Ninjas, and the new Chima series, which is also battle focused.  Even the Lego City sets often feature something like scruffy criminals robbing a bank, instead of something more traditional, like police officers with a police car.

Because of that conflict-based theming, it's easy to see where girls or less-combative boys might simply not be interested in Legos.  My colleague's daughter loves Legos, but he said they'd already acquired every house and animal-based set there was, and she just didn't want to build warships.  Lego Friends is perfect for her.

True, there is a beauty parlor set, which has taken a lot of flak, but that's just one among many choices, including a science lab, a dance studio, and other friendly, non-weapons-oriented play sets.

As soon as I was done building, I turned it over to the boys.  Within moments, Buster had discarded the actual Lego Friends characters to the side and moved in his favorite Ninjagos and their enemy snake demons.

Cole, the black ninja, became the short order cook, frying up hamburgers with his swords in the harness crossing his back. The other ninjas and snakes gathered around the table companionably.

Rattlerz, with his little fangs showing, developed a fondness of flowers.

And so on and so forth.  The micro dude loved it.  He played for days. Eventually the cafe got dismantled and the pieces were mixed into the boys' vast bins of bricks, just like any other Lego.

So, from my perspective, Lego Friends is a win. Fun to build, opens up more opportunities for girls to engage with a construction toy, and welcomes equal opportunity experiences for boys, girls, and mutant snake creatures to play on the same turf.