Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Feast of Lights: flashback

[I'm reposting one of my most popular blog articles, originally posted in December 2008, in celebration of Hanukkah. Thanks to my wonderful commenters, I have the composer's name, correct lyrics and a YouTube video now! Happy Holidays to all.] 

Back when my dad worked at the National Labs, many of his coworkers came from all over the globe. Highly educated engineers, physicists, and scientists from Germany, Poland, China, India, or Russia all found important work to do in their fields alongside Americans from across the country. No matter their religion, when December came around in the '70s, there was an office Christmas Party, complete with Santas everywhere, angels and reindeer, and songs about glorifying the savior's birth. Christianity was assumed, but if you were Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, or Muslim you came to the party anyway, because you were expected to or just to celebrate the spirit of the season (and there was free food!). In the time before political correctness, expecting a nod toward any non-Christian religion at a mainstream office party was too much to hope for.

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, my sister M. and I featured regularly in the singing at the ANL Xmas parties. We dutifully learned our songs in elementary school chorus class to prepare for the annual Christmas choral program. We were pretty good! Our little eight- and six-year-old voices were sweet and earnest. One year at his office party, my dad asked us to sing our favorite Christmas carol. After a brief conference (in which I argued for my favorite, a beautiful song in a haunting minor key), we sang this lovely song, Feast of Lights, composed by Frederick Silver:

Video credit: The Primes Girl Choir of South Florida performs "A Feast of Lights" by Fredrick Silver live during the 2010 Winter Concert "Timbrel and Harp" on December 11, 2010, at Second Presbyterian Church of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Associate Director: Gretchen Fasulo.

I remember Mama lighting the Menorah,
Then covering her head she'd start to pray.
When Papa finished reading from the Torah,
Mama, smiling down on me, would say:

May your days and nights
Be a feast of lights
The eternal flame, may it glow in you,
And the Holy One
May He know in you
only love

May the light of peace
Shine and never cease
And the glow of wisdom illumine in you
May you never hate, though it's human to;
May you know love.

May you go through life
With your head up to the sky
May you never walk in shame
In sight of the light of the One
Who has no name
This I wish for you.

May your days and nights
Be a feast of lights
Have a warmth for all of humanity
For without it, life is but vanity
May you have love.

May you have faith, and
May you have strength, and
May the Lord grant
Your life will have length
May it be sweet yet strong

May your days and nights
be a feast of lights
Your whole life long. 

Of all the many unsuspecting, long-suffering Jewish coworkers at the Christmas party? There was not a dry eye.

Happy Belated Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, or whichever holiday you celebrate this season. May you know love.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

My Dance Resume

I've got a new hobby in the works. It's one that I've already fit into my schedule for five hours a week and I look forward to every day, but I'm ready to take it to the next level. It's not knitting or jewelry or doll-making; although I love all those hobbies, I'm not making time for them and they aren't working naturally into my activities right now. They're all once-in-a-while hobbies. What am I loving and doing all the time, whenever I can outside of work? Dancing.

I was just laying out my dance experience for this new hobby, to justify my credentials (a resume I've never outlined before). So far, I have trained (at least once a week and up to four times/week for each time period):

  • 18 years step aerobics/group aerobic dance
  • 7 years jazz dance
  • 5 years modern dance
  • 5 years ballet
  • 5 years yoga
  • 4 years body pump 
  • 2 years Jazzercise
  • 2 years hip-hop dance
  • 2 years karate
  • 1 year Pilates
  • 1 year kick-boxing
  • 1/2 year Zumba
 My new adventure? Jazzercise Instructor. Over the next six months I will be auditioned, trained, and hopefully certified to teach my own classes by the end of the year. So what if I'm in my 40s? Most of the other instructors are as well. I'm in the best shape I've ever been in my life. I love the classes I'm taking and think it would be the perfect part-time adventure.

If it weren't for some of my Jazzercise classmates who've been telling me that I should be an instructor a few times a month for the past year (Jessie, Tom, Anne, Jennifer), I wouldn't have considered it. I have to put a few other hobbies on hold for a while, but they'll be there for me to pick up again. Hobbies are patient. I'm just really excited about this one right now and need to act on the thrill!

Friday, December 02, 2011

Stay clear of me today

Minor things going wrong are part of every morning, and I typically solve them and move on. I barely notice them. Once minor annoyances start piling on and I find myself keeping track of them, it looks like the beginning of a bad day. On a day like today, when this many little things go wrong, I might snap at any teeny issue, so I'm just going to quietly hunker down at work and hope nobody pokes me.

My list so far, all normal things by themselves:
  1. My back-up alarm (my watch) didn't wake me up (I left it in the bathroom last night).
  2. My shirt had a hole in it (I had to change).
  3. My nylons have a run in them (I covered them with pants).
  4. I left my lunch bag at work (I had to scrounge for a paper bag).
  5. Rosie needed nebulizer meds that take 20 minutes and I was already late, so I roused her out of bed too quickly, which sets her off (it's better for everyone to let her come out of her room in her own time).
  6. Dash made Rosie cry by threatening to watch a TV show that she dislikes (I intervened and relocated Dash to watch something on my laptop while she was on the nebulizer).
  7. I forgot that both kids have spelling tests today (I had to quiz them).
  8. I have a smashing headache (have I taken pills for it yet? no.).
  9. My car was covered with frost for the first time this season (I had to scrape it).
  10. While I was scraping the car, I noticed that somebody had hit it and the side-view mirror was dangling and couldn't be reattached (the mechanic in my neighborhood is ordering the part, but for now, I'm driving without a driver's side mirror).
Solving the first five issues would have been a normal day. To keep having them pile on, one after another, is a little too much even for me. On the way to the office, I caught myself about to yell at a guy who was walking two paces ahead of me for not holding a door for me — he let it go and almost hit me in the face. I'm feeling edgy.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Knitting "two-hour" fingerless gloves. Yeah, right.

I was home from work yesterday after succumbing to the dreaded strep throat that Rosie had caught almost two weeks ago. With all kinds of choices for how I should spend my day — cleaning the collapsing kitchen cabinets? washing the fetid floor? laundering the bed-linens? — I chose to knit. I was getting tired of the hat I've been working on for about two hours a week through November (I missed a stitch or two and the pattern is all screwed up), so, I looked up a project that Kelly had posted on Pinterest, the one-hour fingerless gloves. I did my own search, not thinking about Pinterest yesterday, and found a two-hour fingerless gloves pattern on It looked pretty and not too hard, with three inches of ribbing, then gradual increases while you worked in the thumb.

What happened, however, was not a two-hour result. I had a set of bamboo double-pointed needles, perfect for this pattern, but have never used them before—they're sticky. I used acrylic yarn that I have in abundance (free!) from my MIL. It might not be as easy to use as wool, I have no idea. I also knit pretty tightly, especially when I'm trying something new. About four hours into knitting one glove, I was about half-way finished. It's beautiful, but I really, really want to get faster at this stuff! I took my first knitting class exactly a year ago and I've made about five scarves, two and a half hats, and now this half a glove. I was getting faster when I was working on the scarves, but that was mostly because it was all knitting. This, knit one row, purl one row, count 18, knit in front and behind — it's all slowing me down even more.

It's primarily the tension thing, right, experienced knitters? If I can just loosen my stitches up, I can go faster? Arrggh! I'd love this to be the solution to Xmas gifts this year, but not if it's going to take me a day per glove. Rosie said she just liked the wristlet, without the finger-warming part, like a bracelet? I can totally do that. That might even take me two hours.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Dash got his Blue Belt in Karate!!!

I'm so proud of Dash for passing his promotion test and getting his blue belt in Karate today!! All the other parents kept telling me that Sensei almost never passed kids on their first test and many of the students taking the test at the same time failed it, so I really didn't say anything to get Dash's hopes up at all. But he did it!!

I'm so proud of him!!

What a great way to end NaBloPoMo. Peace out, November!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I'm so lucky...

That my kids love each other so much!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Rosa Parks tissue box: a 3rd grade assignment

Rosie's classmates were each assigned a historical figure to research, write about, and then put the facts up on the four panels of a tissue box. Panel one was to be an original drawing of the historical figure. I was impressed that Rosie just drew the illustration of Rosa Parks in the photo above, with no reference whatsoever. Probably helped that she was assigned Rosa Parks before, by her first grade teacher. She drew the bus, then I suggested that she draw the Presidential Medal of Freedom that Mrs. Parks received from President Clinton, and I helped her (only a little, with basic outlining) draw from a photo on Wikipedia.

Panel two was a four-point timeline, panel three was five important facts about Rosa Parks, and panel four was a two-paragraph essay, compiling everything she'd learned into prose form. We had a note from her teacher that THREE paragraphs would get you an outstanding grade, so Rosie went for three.

I was just congratulating Rosie on turning the project in a day ahead of time, when I read an email from another parent in Rosie's class. Their teacher sent them home with a biography study guide today (Rosie forgot her folder at school).  It is over two pages of biographical details on 20 historical figures! AND, their test is next Tuesday!?! Thanks for no advance notice. Wouldn't it have been nice to have been able to leisurely go over different factoids during the lazy hours of the Thanksgiving break? Tossing in a story about Thomas Jefferson or Cesar Chavez at bedtime would have been nice. But now, we have to cram it all in over the next week along with all her other homework AND Dash's (he has a fractions test on Friday). The teacher is hoping that all the tissue boxes all over the classroom will help the kids absorb the stories.

How do parents with more than two kids manage all the homework? Hats off to you, I mean it.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

You left something behind...

Almost every time I go to visit my BFF Kelly, who lives 28 miles and 40 minutes away, I leave something behind. I usually bring a bunch of things with me, like crafting supplies, or hand-me-down clothes for Thea, or food for a potluck. I also forget to bring other things, like today, I forgot the thank you cards that Rosie wrote for Thea and Liam's birthday gifts, and copies of the kids' school portraits.

This time, I left my knitting tools bag and some extra yarn.

I retrieved the umbrella that I left over there in October.

In October, I was reunited with the pair of sunglasses that I left at Kelly's in August. And so on.

There have been so many other times that I've left a sweater or a kid's toy or some random thing that I should expect it by now! I'm typically running out of there way too late (enjoying the company!), carrying five things and trying to wrangle kids at the same time.

They say that when you accidentally leave something behind, it means that you subconsciously want to return to that place. That is most certainly true here!! I and my kids all love visiting Kelly and family.

Kelly said it best when she texted me to let me know my knitting bag was still there: "We really should live in the same neighborhood." Agreed. Or start heavily investing in matter transporters. We have the Internet, video phones, instant movies, digital books, and jet packs (sort of)—where's my transporter?

It's not a big deal for now, we have plans to hang out at my place next Sunday and can exchange all the things. Maybe Kelly will leave something behind over here...

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Making the best of a long weekend

We've all been in the house together since Thursday morning, except for kids' playdates on Friday. Rosie had been asking to play with a new friend, Paige, and Finn had been asking about Dash. Dash rarely requests playdates and prefers playing on his own, which is okay by me, generally, but they needed to get out of the house! We were all getting on each other's nerves and were more than a little stir-crazy.

On Friday, Dash went to Finn's and I tried to take the girls to River Farm, but I swear, every time I try to get in there, it's closed for a private event. Same thing yesterday. I ended up taking Rosie and Paige to their elementary school's playground and believe that they enjoyed having it to themselves instead of sharing it with everyone in their grade for a change. We stuck around there until lunch and returned for Nutella sandwiches, fruit, and carrots before I set them up to play Just Dance 2 on the Wii. Two o'clock snuck up on us, and it was time to take Paige home. The girls weren't at all ready to part and were begging for an extension, so I accepted a bargain to drop them at Paige's until I returned from Finn's with Dash.

Dash and Finn had been peacefully playing Legos the entire time. Finn's mom expressed to me that for two boys that are so disruptive while in class, they played like quiet little mice. We exchanged several observations about their first-grade teacher and the negative comments on interim reports before Dash and I were on our way. Back at Paige's, we met her little brother, Chase, who is also six like Dash, but a year behind in school. True to their names, they were running circles around each other in the front yard, fast friends. I couldn't help commenting on it a few times—go, action verbs! We promised to schedule more play time for them all together soon, as it was such a great success.

Saturday morning, I left the house to make the first Jazzercise class since Wednesday afternoon, as they'd cancelled all the in-between ones for the holiday. It was PACKED. I managed to squeeze into a spot in the front corner and had a blast as usual! Harmony (today's instructor) is so easy to follow and doesn't crank her tunes too high. I wear earplugs a lot and wind up missing cues in other classes. Still fun!

When I got back and showered, we had already worked out that we would all take advantage of the lovely weather and walk to the library. Rosie has a biography project due next week and needed to pick up some books for research. To sweeten the deal for the kids, Monkeyrotica had found a walking path on Google Maps that cut through the neighborhoods and made the trip less than a mile one-way (by car, it's 1.5 miles). Rosie found her books and we each picked up another book or two; all the books ended up in my bag to carry home. It was close to lunch, so we walked another half-mile out of our way to get sandwiches at one of the few local delis (read Monkey's Yelp review). I don't think Rosie and Dash even noticed that they walked about 2.5 miles today, with all the exploring, leaf-kicking, and bird/squirrel/deer spotting.

It was such a beautiful, warm day—really a gorgeous weekend! I'm so glad we didn't just stay indoors, which is what might have happened if it had been colder.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Buy handmade this season, a pledge

I know it's "black Friday" and many people went out at midnight, camped out and already purchased hugely discounted, large-scale electronics made in China and shipped to big box stores. I hope you all got some great deals on things you needed or gifts you intend for deserving loved ones.

From here forward, I have a suggestion. Rather than ordering another crate of miscellaneous, anonymous, ubiquitous items to be shipped from's largest warehouse, consider these other, more sustainable choices:

  • Buying from a local artist or craftsperson
  • Shopping at a small business, and getting to know the owner — you'll know exactly where your money is going.
  • Making gifts yourself — the most beloved and unique gifts are DIY from the heart; whether it's a painting, a knit scarf, or baked goods, a gift made with love with the recipient in mind is most welcome.

badge courtesy of

If buying online is the best option for you, these websites support artists who hand-make their goods (list compiled by re-nest):

Online Handmade Marketplaces
There is no shortage of handmade items, nor marketplaces. Here are some top choices from around the globe:
  • Artfire: Not just for paintings and original art pieces, this marketplace is now open to all sorts of handmade goods.
  • Best of Handmade - This site searches multiple handmade sites at once.
  • DaWanda: This is Europe's version of Etsy.
  • Etsy: This is easily the largest global online community of handmade goods.
  • Folksy: This is the UK's online shop for handmade items.
  • iCraft: This is Canada's own Etsy-esque online community.
  • MadeitMyself: This site is similar to Etsy as an online community of handmade buyers and sellers.
  • Shop Handmade: This has a slight eco twist to the traditional craft store listings with carbon mitigation and rainforest conservation donations.
  • Ten Thousand Villages: This is both an online store and a brick and mortar shop that features fair trade items from around the World.
  • Try Handmade: This site highlights and shares handmade finds and shops.
Take the pledge this season to buy handmade. It's easy, just a shift of perspective. Many people have already chosen for years to only buy handmade goods as gifts. I ask you to do the same for yourselves and for me.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

So very thankful...

I'm thankful that I slept in today, but was woken up gently by a 6-year-old bouncing on the mattress near my feet.

I'm thankful that Monkeyrotica brought me delicious coffee in bed and made the four of us a lovely breakfast.

I'm thankful that my family helped me to maintain order in the house this week so that it wasn't too difficult to prepare for our dinner guests.

I'm incredibly thankful for a quick-thinking husband who, when given an obstacle like, say, A POWER OUTAGE ON THANKSGIVING right after the turkey went into the oven, has a plan B ready to go and put the turkey in the smoker without missing a beat. He was planning to cook the beans and peas on the camp stove, but thankfully (!) the power came back on.

I'm thankful that my sister and parents live so close to us and can visit regularly without hardship. I'm incredibly thankful that they let my children know that they love them in so many ways, all the time.

I'm thankful that we were able to have such plenty on our table this Thanksgiving, all healthy food made from scratch with love.

Monkeyrotica cooked the turkey using a Julia Child recipe that reduces the cook-time by deboning and stuffing the turkey thighs.
My plate: slices of turkey meat, stuffing, sauteed green beans, Brussels sprout slaw, roasted red potato, and a little homemade gravy.
Dash: always moving, always playful and so sweet. He's the most imaginative little guy; I'm never sure what is going to come out of his mouth next. He's so very much his own wonderful six-year-old boy and I'm glad he's my son.
Rosie: adorable, affectionate, and inquisitive. She's becoming such a wonderful person, caring deeply about her friends, helping around the house, doing her schoolwork without too much prodding. She does the "I'm-the-cutest-kitten-in-the-world-with-sad-eyes-how-could-you-deny-me" look so well! I'm so thankful for her hugs and her love. I feel lucky every day to have a daughter like Rosie.
I'm thankful for all my friends, who are out there having their own Thanksgivings. I send you love, warmth, and hope, and a wish to see you all soon. I have thanks and an embrace to give you in person.

XOXOX, Nylonthread

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What are you thankful for? Kids answers:

Rosie: I'm thankful for my nice family.

Dash: I'm thankful for Christmas, because you get a whole lot of great presents. And it's lots of fun.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Dash's 6th birthday, Party people

Along with yesterday's photos of the food, here are some fabulously well-framed and lit photos taken by our friend Mark Zimin at Dash's birthday party back in July. Someone ought to hire him to photograph and/or DJ their wedding. He's that good.

Gina, her son Brian, and me in the kitchen

Monkeyrotica, Dash (Let me tell you something...), and Finn in the backyard

Janna, ready to conquer any comers

Brent found Dash's raygun!

Me, adding candles to Dash's birthday donut tower

Singing "Happy Birthday," a lesson in delayed gratification

Finally, the donuts!

Andrei and other children in the foreground, Ken, Kelly & I in the middle ground

Elizabeth and Weegee make friends.

Seeing our guests on their way, party's over! Bye, Geoff, see you soon.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Summer Party: The calm before the BBQ storm

Monkeyrotica really enjoys barbecuing for friends and when he sets his mind to cooking for a group, he does it right and full out. These images are from right before we called "soup's on" to our guests, a wonderful, unsullied spread of summer barbecue deliciousness.

Monkey smoked ribs and pulled pork shoulder; in front of Dash is a tray of vinegar slaw and to his right are a couple of Ledo pizzas for the kids (or adults) who didn't want smoked meats.

I sliced a watermelon to use as a bowl for fruit salad (notice the monkey-shaped salad tongs!).

Red beans and rice were a vegetarian side for friends who weren't eating meat altogether.

Mmmm, pulled pork. Bags of Martin's potato rolls were waiting to be filled with this lovely stuff.

And, not to be forgotten, the brisket. Man, that party was wonderful! All the kids had fun splashing with sprinklers in the backyard, and all the adults ate till we were uncomfortable and washed it down with a selection of beverages, all cool and refreshing. What was for dessert? Krispy Kreme doughnuts, of course!

Dash blowing out birthday candles. Photo courtesy Mark Zimin

It was Dash's choice for his birthday after all! Dash turned six back in June and I didn't post any of the photos from his party back then. I'll post more of them tomorrow. My photographer friend, Mark Zimin, took the pics and they all turned out beautifully!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Best laid plans...

This weekend was going to be a whirlwind of fun! Or, a whirlwind, anyway. We had plans to go out to a friend's housewarming party Saturday night and I was having a handful of girlfriends over Sunday afternoon for crafting. However, at dinner Friday night, Rosie was having trouble swallowing her food — her throat was hurting badly, and she's not much of a complainer so I told her we'd see a doctor in the morning if it still hurt.

The next day, Monkeyrotica went to visit Grandma I. with Dash, and I got ready for my aerobics class at 8:15 a.m. I had my gear on, Rosie dressed and in the car at 8 on the dot when the phones open at the pediatrician. The receptionist had put me on hold by the time I got to the parking lot outside the Jazzercise studio. At 8:18, the nurse picked up and gave us an appointment of 11:45. I was late for the warm-up, but got my workout in (while Rosie sat alone in a corner with my phone — must sanitize phone...)  and was home and did several chores before the appointment. Just in case the diagnosis was negative, I cleaned up the house as if guests were coming and set up a playdate for Rosie that afternoon. But, nope, she was positive for strep throat. Bummer.

I cancelled the babysitter (turns out the hostess for the housewarming party was sick, too, and cancelled as well) for Saturday, cancelled the playdate, picked up antibiotics at the pharmacy, and then let all the crafting party friends know that Rosie was sick but will have been on antibiotics for 24 hours by the time the crafting would begin. All but one friend backed out. It's the week before Thanksgiving! Nobody was taking chances.

Joan Arkham, a pal I met through came with a gift for Dash! She bought herself this Uglydoll hat, not realizing that "one size fits all" meant "all children under 6 years." Check it out, it's barely fitting Dash (who is holding a Willy Wonka's Everlasting Gobstopper in his mouth, therefore the funny expression). We had a lovely time chatting over wine while I knitted another hat for Rosie (the last one was cute but much too large) and she organized negatives from recent vacations, which she is planning to scan over the next week.

I'm still planning to reschedule the larger crafting party, but it won't be this month! Perhaps the first week of December?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Dash pays respects at his Grandpa Tom's grave

In this very sweet video, Grandma I. gently shows Dash how to properly pay respects to his departed grandfather.

Monkeyrotica and Dash made a special trip to the cemetery while I took Rosie to the pediatrician to get a (positive :-(!) strep culture. All activities for the evening were cancelled. Still planning to have a crafting party at our place tomorrow, but I'm warning friends that there's a chance of contagion.

Friday, November 18, 2011

How NaBloPoMo is affecting my life, and a list.

I'm more than halfway through NaBloPoMo, and there have been some result from all these posts in my daily life, or at the very least, discussions.

Nov. 1: I wrote about why I blog. All that writing and digging for images really  got me digging around on in our photo drive. I found stuff I'd never seen before.

Nov. 2: I wrote about a Philly vacation.
Monkeyrotica sent me photos that I'd forgotten about or had never seen from that trip and it started a discussion about places that we'd go next time we visit.

Nov. 3: I wrote about Dash's reading skills. I think I was deluding myself on how well he was doing with the reading here, because at the Parent-Teacher conference, his teacher painted me a different picture.

Nov. 4: I wrote about upcoming events. This sort of calendar list really helps Monkey. I know what's coming up, but he's not in my head, so putting it all out in an email or *a blog post* gives him a clearer idea of what I've got planned.

Nov. 5: I wrote about The Vices that Made Virginia. I linked to this post on Twitter and got a bunch of good feedback from friends.

Nov. 6: I compiled a photo essay featuring Rosie and Thea. While digging for other photos, I noticed we had dozens of Rosie with her friends, especially Thea, who Rosie has known since Thea's birth and posted one for each year. Thea's parents both thanked me for putting up all the sweet photos of our girls!

Nov. 7: I posted about Parent-Teacher meetings. My mom has been suggesting for a while now that Dash might be dyslexic, because his reading skills have been so slow to progress. After I posted a photo of his writing work, she showed it to some former teachers that she knows and declared him dyslexia-free. But, he may need a tutor.

Nov 8: I wrote about Dash's karate class. Writing about it helped me become better prepared for his promotion test, I'm not sure about Dash, however...

Nov 9: I compiled photos of the family pet. Nothing significant here.

Nov. 10: I wrote about an amazing rework of a small space: Monkey and I had a serious conversation about getting rid of the old desk and moving a drafting table into the office! We have one in the shed that may be in some disrepair, but I'm psyched! Let's get this one going.

Nov. 11: I started baking the rainbow cake for Rosie's birthday. I got tons of cheers and comments offline on this one (I was live-tweeting and posting on Facebook, too).

Nov. 12: I posted about Rosie's birthday party. I also tons of cheers and comments offline on this one.

Nov. 13: I posted another through-the-years photo compilation on Rosie's birthdays. I got some great feedback on the adorable photos, as well as became elated at finding the images for...

Nov. 14: My post on locating images from a long-lost photo shoot. I've since gone back and found other images in strange places that I thought were long gone. My next task: organizing all the photos! Ach, who am I kidding?

Nov. 15: I posted photos of Monkey's parents and added details about his dad's ancestors. The result? Monkey has started calling me the "Starter Wife." Greeaaat.

Nov. 16: I posted a photo from Dash's promotion test. I'm pretty dubious about whether he passed. He looks good in the photo, though!

Nov. 17: I posted a photo of Rosie reading to Dash. As sweet as it gets. No discussion or feedback necessary.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Rosie reads Dash "The Pencil"

"The Pencil" was a late birthday gift
from Monkeyrotica that just arrived.
She wanted to read it immediately
and had a very interested audience!
So adorable, taking care of her little brother.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Dash took his promotion test today!

Did he pass and get his blue belt?

Did he fail and stay a white belt until the next test?

Wait and see, dear readers!!

(I don't actually know yet, so
I'll post an update here when I do.)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Japan, late 1950s: family photos

Monkeyrotica's mom was born in Japan — isn't she incredibly lovely in the photograph below? She was an only child, born to parents who had her late in life. Her mother had a strong family name and was the last of her line, so when they married, her father renounced his own surname and took his wife's. I imagine that was a pretty serious undertaking in patriarchal Japan in the early part of the 20th century? Her mother's family were the last of a samurai line and there were swords and scrolls to pass on, so it was just practical. When Monkey and I were planning our wedding, there was talk about taking her Japanese surname and making it ours, but he really didn't feel attached enough to it, having been born and raised in Washington D.C. and much more known history with his dad's family. We kept his given name.

I.S., circa 1958. That one raised eyebrow says chapters about her sense of humor (that she passed on to her son).
Monkeyrotica has two siblings, but he was the only one who was born in the U.S.; his sister and brother were born in Japan. His dad, Tom, was stationed in Japan during the Korean War, and I. S. was his translator. She told us that Tom's first wife (who was still married to him at the time) introduced them to each other.

I.S. and Lisa, in the garden of the house in Japan.

Tom is the sharp-looking bald guy in the photo below, boldly sporting a white suit and holding Monkey's older sister. We're not sure who the girl is. A cousin, perhaps.

I've done a great deal of genealogy research on Tom's family, who came over from England in 1680. One interesting tidbit that came to light when I was discussing the family history with friends was this:

Monkey's Dad, Tom divorced and remarried, c. 1960. (Monkeyrotica was from the 2nd marriage)
His Grandfather, William divorced and remarried, c. 1930. (Tom was from the 1st marriage)
His Great-grandfather, Hal divorced and remarried c. 1900. (William was from the 1st marriage)
His Great-great-grandfather, W.C. divorced and remarried, c. 1865. (Hal was from the 1st marriage)
A juicy tidbit here: W.C. divorced his wife, Anne, because she cheated on him while he was off fighting for the Confederacy in the American Civil War.

I'm not so sure about marriages prior to W.C., but four solid generations of men with broken marriages? My girlfriend asked, "How does it feel to be a starter wife?"

Monday, November 14, 2011

The case of the missing jewelry photos

In January of 2010, I was going to revive my Etsy shop. I had a bunch of inventory that I'd made over the holidays for friends and family and new fresh ideas for more items to add. I really am horrible at taking photos of my work (or most things, but I don't usually fret about quality for family pictures), so I needed to get some help. At a local Etsy "Street Team" workshop, I learned how to set up a light box, got great tips on how to arrange the lighting properly and adjust my digital camera's settings for the best effect.

Doesn't this photo of my origami cicada earrings look great?! I might have taken it, or the pro might have been taking a test shot with my camera. Whichever. After the session, I packed up my new light box, brought all my gear home and planned to put the photos up on my Etsy site soon. Any day now, I'd have some time. Yep. Tick tock.

Time did pass (days? weeks?) and finally, after who knows exactly how long, I found an afternoon to set aside and put my photos up already. They were going to look AWESOME on my page! I was going to start selling stuff and the momentum would come. I grabbed the camera, hooked it up to my laptop and went to download the photos.

The memory card was empty.

A sick sinking feeling, killing my creative energy set in. I asked Monkeyrotica what happened to the photos. He downloaded them, of course! He needed the camera. Where? How the heck should he know? The usual place. I spent hours and hours doing searches in the usual places. I searched by .jpg, by date, by DSC, I browsed, I used Adobe Bridge. NOTHING.

My Etsy shop languished with no new images of work for sale. Every time I thought of taking new photos of my work, that sinking feeling came back, reminding me that I ALREADY HAVE some fabulous photos, somewhere, if only I could find them! I gave up, figuring that they had been deleted.

Then, in mid-2011, we bought an Apple TV. Monkeyrotica had the genius idea of using our shared photo directory as a screen saver, randomly cycling our photos-from-all-time that exist on the hard drive. It's actually mesmerizing, seeing a photo of Dash running on the beach last summer next to Rosie at two months old wrapped up in layers for a stroller ride in the snow. I think a few weeks or more than a month went by when I saw one of the photos from the workshop!!! I think I screamed, "How can I find that!!??" Monkey shrugged. "It's a randomizer. It's in the photo directory somewhere."

At least they hadn't been deleted.

Anyone who's been reading my blog lately knows that I've been digging through the archives, looking for old photos of Rosie and Weegee. It wasn't until last night, when I couldn't find one of her birthday images that I was really excavating. Our photo drive is organized by year, based loosely on the size of the images, and the amounts of photos we were taking at the time. For example, Bundle #1 has years 2002 through 2006 on it, Bundles #2-3 have 2007, #4-6 have 2008, and so forth; we are currently at Bundle #13 for 2011. Where were the jewelry images? OUTSIDE all of the "Bundle" folders in a folder marked "DCIM"! Inside DCIM (WTF does that stand for?), there's a folder labeled "100SANYO" with 274 loose images in it. My photos were at the bottom of the directory.

I'm glad that I have them now, but more than a little upset that they were missing for close to two years. Anyone want to buy some origami earrings for a holiday gift? I take commissions...

And I've totally got to get them up  to sell online. I was thinking about an shop this time. I'll post links when they're up.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Birthday Girl Rosie, 2003–2011

From the photo archives:
Rosalie's birthday parties from 1st to 9th 

Rosie's 1st birthday, 2003 
Rosie's party this year was a combination birthday for her and Monkeyrotica, as well as a housewarming for us. We bought our home in late August of 2003. Three celebrations at once were very confusing for our guests!

Rosie's 2nd birthday, 2004 
A house party birthday celebration for Rosie and Monkeyrotica with lots of friends and family. Actually, all of Rosie's birthday parties were shared with her dad until she turned seven.

Rosie's 3rd birthday, 2005 
A house party with friends and neighbors. 


Rosie's 4th birthday, 2006
Another large house party with lots of birthday sharing: Rosalie, Monkeyrotica, Liam O., and Jim S. were all represented. Sorry, couldn't find a birthday cake photo, this one will have to do, from a bowling alley party a few days before the party.

Rosie's 5th birthday, 2007 
A large house party with 75 guests, 2 cakes and tons of fun! 

Rosie's 6th birthday, 2008
A large house party, lots of guests and a home-made chocolate cake.

Rosie's 7th birthday, 2009 
A family birthday event at Medieval Times, then a small sleepover party with a select group of girlfriends (and cupcakes).

Rosie's 8th birthday, 2010
An ice skating party with friends and a special strawberry-flavored maneki neko cake. 

Rosie's 9th birthday, 2011
Rosie had a bowling party with friends and a rainbow cake the day before her birthday, then a birthday lunch with family at El Paso restaurant today. The ice cream was compliments of the staff! They sang to her and let her wear this special hat.

Happiest birthday, sweetheart! I love you so much; more every year. XOXOXO, Mommy

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Rosie's Rainbow Birthday Cake (part 2 of 2)

Rosie told me that she wanted a "rainbow cake" for her birthday months ago, and I had it all planned out, I did my research and was ready. But really, you can only know what you got yourself into once you've done it yourself. The ultimate result was a lovely (if a bit fragile) cake that looked almost exactly like I thought it would. See, the birthday girl was happy with the results and that's all that matters.

Happy birthday, Rosie!

To make the cake, it required two boxes of mix, oil, egg whites and water as directed. I bought special "food paste" at Williams and Sonoma to get the vibrant colors. Keep in mind if you use these to color your food: a little red goes a looooong way. My red and orange look pretty similar, but that's not for lack of yellow in the orange!

There was about 1.5 cups of mix per layer. The indigo/violet looked a lot more violet in real life instead of the gray it looks on camera.

A few of the layers stuck to the pans after cooling and I was a little inaccurate getting the layers to line up as you can see in the photo of unfrosted cake above, but after two entire tubs of frosting were applied, it all smoothed out!

The happy birthday song was sung, the candles blown out... (oh, hey, there was bowling, too)

and we cut open the cake! 

Much fun was had by all.

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