Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Zoo animals on parade

Little Omi got another chance to wear her costume today at our library's baby costume parade. What fun! We paraded all around the library, then next door to City Hall. All the city employees ooh'ed and ahh'd at our little menagerie. The best little girl in the parade was dressed as a lion and would roar on cue. Too cute!

When we returned to the library Little Omi took off for the reference section, her favorite part of the children's area.

Golden countdown

photo credit: Laurie Sparham/New Line Cinema
The movie version of the Phillip Pullman novel The Golden Compass opens December 7, and Big Omi and I are so excited to go. My dad originally recommended the book, which is part of the His Dark Materials trilogy, when we were visiting him way back in 2001. Without going into a lengthy book review, I'll just say it's the only book I've ever owned that I've given away to a friend who expressed interest in reading it, because I just hoped someone else would read it so we could talk about how great it is.

While I was somewhat worried when I read there would be a movie version, I have to say after seeing the trailer that I'm totally on board. Nicole Kidman is going to make a perfect Mrs. Coulter, the icy villainess/mother figure to our plucky heroine, Lyra. Plus, Ian McKellan as the voice of the armored bear Iorek Byrnison! Sam Elliott as cowboy-hot-air-balloon-aviator Lee Scoresby! Hooray! Even Daniel Craig as Lord Asriel isn't too bad, even though I imagined him to be darker. I guess Daniel Craig is reinventing dark-haired characters one by one.

P.S. Check out that beautiful bonnet on Lyra. I'm excited for the costumes in this movie, too.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Haunting the zoo

Tonight we learned a big lesson. We went to the zoo for their big Halloween event and braved the hordes (thank goodness for the stroller) with some other families we know. When we arrived at the carousel, everyone eagerly got in line, except us. Weren't we taking Little Omi? they asked. Oh, nah, we replied. We'll just stay behind and watch all the strollers. We were sure Little Omi would cry or get scared or just not be up to it for some reason. Where we ever came up with that idea, I'll never know, because as soon as the others stepped onto the platform, Little Omi started to wail. Was she just tired? Overstimulated? No, as the others got off and we went to play in the adjoining playground, it became clearer and clearer that all Little Omi wanted to do was ride that carousel.

So we took her, and she loved it. I think she would have stayed on forever if we had had enough tokens. And we could have watched her forever, with that look of wonder on her face.

This marked the first time she told us she wanted to do something she had never experienced before. (Or at least the first time we got it!)

Pumpkin patch

Yesterday we finally made it over to the pumpkin patch that a local church organizes every year. Little Omi has seen a lot of pumpkins at the Farmer's Market lately, but never this many in one place. She kept trying to pick each one up, except this one, which she kissed.

Tomorrow we are going to do our first Halloween event up at the zoo. We're keeping our fingers crossed that she'll keep her costume on for more than 5 minutes this year!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Two turntables and some cutie pies

OK, so I found this on Z Recommends, but it is so cute that I just had to put it up here, too. (Plus, Blogger is having trouble uploading photos, so the pretty pic of Little Omi at the pumpkin patch will have to wait till later.)

Friday, October 26, 2007

Flashback Friday: Favorite Activity

The theme for Flashback Friday this week is Favorite Activity or Toy. Unfortunately, and quite astonishingly, I don't have any photos of me playing with Legos, which was probably my all-time favorite toy as a child (and those of you who know me in person also know that there are Legos to be found in our house at this very moment, and they're not Little Omi's!). I was heavily into the Castle series and had a whole portion of the floor in my room dedicated to my castles and surrounding forests.

While playing Legos was primarily a solo activity, by far the most popular toys my sister and I played with together were our My Friend Mandy and Jenny dolls, or "Mands and Jens" as we called them. We also had Becky and Mikey, and although you may remember Charles and Diana's as the biggest wedding event of the 1980s, you obviously did not receive an exclusive invitation to the nuptials of Mandy and Mikey. We worked for days on this big wedding. Our mom made all the dresses by hand. Sis and I made tiny tulle-wrapped rice baggies. And the whole event went off without a hitch, or apparently a wedding photographer, because we have no photos of it!

In the summers in Colorado, my sister and I turned our attention to our Lincoln Logs. I have to admit we spent many hours building, demolishing, and re-building to perfection "The Lincoln Lodge" even into our teen years. By this time, we insisted we were building, not playing. Note the distinction!

I am not sure if we built a huge number of sandcastles together, but I just happen to have TWO photographs commemorating this craft. I think they were taken in the same year. The top photo was taken on our road trip to the Pacific Northwest; I remember wearing that satin-heart-covered sweatshirt and wondering why so many people were still mistaking me for a boy. The photo below was taken at our grandparents' cabin in Colorado, and I'm pretty sure that shortly afterwards, we were busy playing with our Star Wars action figures in this castle/Hoth snow fort.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Flashback Friday: The OTHER Pop's Spot

OK, so last Friday I misunderstood the meaning of the word "pop" and mistakenly posted about my father instead of my grandfather. I promised a make-up post, so here it is.
Here's my grandpa Oliver reading 'Twas the Night Before Christmas to my sister and me. This was an annual tradition in our family, and one we still miss every year at Christmastime. These are but two of the photos I have that captured this sweet occurrence. When he got to the bit about the reindeer Donder and Blitzen, he would tell us that Donder and Blitzen mean thunder and lightning. Every year. We counted on it. (He would also joke and say "I tore open the shutters and threw up the hash," changing forever the meaning of that line.)

This one (above) was taken the one year we got to spend Christmas in Colorado, which was also the year the area received record snowfall. It was such a treat for us Okies to spend so much time in the snow. I'll never forget toboggoning down our steep road with my dad yelling "Grrrit yoouurrr teeeeeth!"

I had to include this photo, because it's of my grandparents before they started dating. Yup, she was his secretary (this is some time before she became mayor!). Just look at that twinkle in his eye!

Here is how I remember my grandpa. He was just such a happy fellow, and the smartest man I think I have ever met. He was a political scientist, and pioneered the use of math and computers in the field. He was a Japanese-language translator in WWII, and received his Ph.D. from the University of Geneva. But to me he was grandpa, and we shared a special bond in our love of numbers and puzzles. Our birthdays were two days apart, and when I turned 7, he turned 70. Each year we loved to figure out how our ages fit together (when I was 8, he was 71, or 7+1=8; when I was 9, he was 72, or 7+2=9; and so on...). I remember one year, I think I was around 19 (1+9=10 and 8+2=10 also!), I went to dinner with him and his companion and her sister & brother-in-law. I felt like such a real grown-up, joining in their spirited (in more ways than one) debates about art and politics.

My grandpa died in 1999, and I was so disappointed for him that he didn't live to see the calendar roll over to 2000. I often think about him and wonder what he would have to say about the way our country is going these days. If he were still alive, he would be 96. 9+6=15, and 1+5=6. I am 33, and 3+3=6. Missing you so much, Grandpa!

More tilt-shift fun

Our recent trip to the zoo also yielded some shots for faking tilt-shift photography. The trick is pretty simple in Photoshop, and once you start miniaturizing your photos, you won't want to quit. There's a great flickr pool with some really amazing shots. Check it.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Am I the last person on Earth to find out about GABA rice? We eat a lot of rice at our house, 99% of it Calrose. I recently picked up a copy of The Healthiest Kid in the Neighborhood by Dr. William Sears which really drives home the benefits of eating brown rice. Now, I grew up eating brown rice, but Big Omi refers to it as "dog food." I can see why, too, since our rice cooker does a very poor job with it (see how I conveniently blame the rice cooker when it's likely that I should be soaking the rice prior to cooking it, but we'll get to that) and it often comes out underdone and slightly crunchy.

As it turns out, scientists have discovered that pre-heating brown rice at 104°F for 2–8 hours before cooking it activates "gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), an amino acid believed to have health giving properties such as lowering blood pressure, improving kidney function and relieving stress" (from the Zojirushi Web site). Wow. I should point out that it was Big Omi who came home with this information, saying that he was on board with making the switch to brown rice, but was I ready to commit to the extended heating and cooking time? And, oh, yes, we would probably have to buy a fancy new rice cooker that has settings to pre-heat your brown rice and get the GABA flowin'. Okay... now all I need to do is find a good local source of quality brown rice.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Yesterday it was 80°F

Big Omi, Little Omi, and I had a very good Sunday. Our power was out for most of the morning (the power company is replacing all of the power line poles in our neighborhood), prompting us to get out of the house and enjoy the beautiful weather. We stopped by Big Omi's lab so he could turn on a vacuum pump and then stayed on campus for a bit enjoying the plentiful mums. Little Omi did some serious running around, exploring, and collecting pine cones.

Today the temperature peaked at around 55°F, and it was gray and drizzly all day. What? More fall, please! Still, it was perfect chili weather. Score one more for The New Best Recipe.

p.s. Did you hear the news? Dumbledore is gay! (link contains book 7 spoilers)

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Playing favorites

How about a new little game? Name your favorite, most cherished, best-loved, or frequently-used cookbook. (There could be one for each of those categories!) Write about it on your blog, then leave a comment here to let me know you did.

Not to beat a dead horse, but for me, I think the answer has to be The New Best Recipe. I just love the fact that each recipe has been thoroughly tested so you know it will turn out the first time you give it a try. And everything I've made from it—curry butternut squash soup, turkey burgers, tabbouleh, salmon, and more—has tasted fantastic. I also learned how to properly dice onions from their handy tutorial, something that has changed my life for the better!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Yum, yum yum yum (yum yum yum yum)*

Tonight we dined on some delicious curry butternut squash soup. The recipe is from The New Best Recipe, the virtues of which I have already extolled here. The white stuff is a yogurt-lime-cilantro topping to cut the spiciness of the curry. So good. The coolest bit of this recipe (which I would post but I'm not sure how the whole copyright deal works, so I highly recommend at least checking the library for this cookbook) is the use of the squash seeds and strings in the liquid used to steam the squash. Then the liquid is strained and used to thin the steamed squash into the soup. "Mmmm, bo!" (as Little Omi would say)

*Sung to the tune of the theme from Oz.(Link not recommended for the faint of heart; Oz was a graphically violent HBO television show set in a prison.)

Flashback Friday: Pop's Spot*

This week we recognize our dear fathers, and I have to admit I've been waiting for this one. I just happen to have a ton of great images already scanned from a project I made for my dad's 60th birthday. These are probably the best of the bunch because they contain so much information, even though I don't really remember when they were taken (the year was 1977, so I was 3).

On this particular evening, my sister and I were all cuddled up in dad's lap, reading a Richard Scarry book, totally engrossed. Can you guess what was just out of the frame to the left? The TV. My parents, along with the rest of the country, were watching the miniseries Roots. My sister wrote about this photo later when she was in high school, and she remembers the scene where Levar Burton is saying "My name is Kunta Kinte." She also recalls that all I was saying was, "Reeeead!"

Other things to look for in the photos: My crooked bangs, growing out from the time my sister decided to cut them completely off; my mom's spinning wheel; and the reflection of the coolest light fixture ever, seen also in the photo below as my dad is standing just inches away from where the rocking chair used to be!

Here's one to illustrate a bit of my dad's crafty side. This is from 1984 and we're going to a Sting concert on Halloween night. My dad is dressed as Vyvyan from The Young Ones. As I recall, he made the costume all by himself, only needing help using gelatin to make his hair stand up from my then-teenaged sister. He affixed the metal stars to his forehead using hot glue!

* I just discovered that "Pop" means "grandfather" at Flashback Friday. What a faux pas! (har) I guess I've been reading Hop on Pop a little too much lately. I will do a make-up post to celebrate my pop, or, grandpa, as we say in my neck of the woods.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Blog: What is it good for?

I have absolutely nothing to report on today. But it's been a couple of days since I posted, so I'm feeling the pressure to put something up. So, here's a pretty picture of my mom's sumac changing color.

Little Omi and I returned to the zoo on Tuesday for another dose of animal fun and ran into an old friend, A, who I've known since we were in pre-school. I would say it was a coincidence except I know he likes the zoo and goes pretty often, so really it was just a matter of time before we saw him there.

This morning Big Omi and I woke up with head colds. Wah. I turn into the world's biggest baby when I have a cold. Did I already say wah?


Sunday, October 14, 2007

Weekend update

How was your weekend? We had a good one, starting on Friday night when our dear friends B & L came over for temaki-zushi. We've tried doing sushi at home before, but always got bogged down by the precision needed to make rolls (not to mention the sharp knives needed to slice the rolls into precise little pieces). Then we discovered this wonderful description of temaki-zushi on Blue Lotus and knew we had found the answer to sushi at home.

Here is L's very first roll. Y U M M Y ! At the end of the night, B played his guitar and serenaded Little Omi to sleep. I wish he could come over every night and do that.

Today Big Omi and I decided it was high time for Little Omi's first trip to the zoo. We are sort of unenthusiastic about zoos in general, especially the smaller ones, which Big Omi calls "sad animal parks." We visited one such park in Japan that just had a single deer in a cage. Very sad, indeed. But we do feel it is important for Little Omi to get to see some big animals and after all, it may just inspire her to do Great Things with her naturalist's side.

We arrived at the zoo around 1 pm and could not have asked for a better day. The weather was perfect; warm but not hot, cloudy but not rainy. We saw almost every animal the place had to offer. The gorillas were particularly interesting. One female came right over to the glass and gave Little Omi a good long look, which was pretty intense for Big Omi and me.

OK, so this is a statue, but it pretty accurately depicts what the scene was like with the real gorilla.

Rhinoceroses are cool.

Little Omi found them fascinating.

Being big Meerkat Manor fans, we were delighted to see some meerkats. We watched them for quite awhile, but couldn't discern which one was the dominant female since none of them was wearing a radio collar. ;) Plus, look how fat and sassy these little guys are! I guess the zoo is a far cry from the Kalahari desert.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Flashback Friday: Homemade

That's me (far left) with my sister and our cousins frosting a homemade cake at our grandparents' house. I vividly remember this encounter, my very first try at frosting a cake (although it's clear I did a fair amount of spoon-licking and I wasn't close enough to the actual cake to get much frosting time in!). My oldest cousin, the one in the bandanna, was very clear in her instructions to the rest of us to "start smooth and then make little peaks." I love so much about this picture: the red booth, my cousins' stylin' wardrobes, the Diet Dr. Pepper can that signifies my mom was somewhere nearby, the scissor-tail flycatcher figurine above my head, and especially the expressions on all of our faces.

Thank you, Pip, for a great theme this week!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Small and mighty

Calling all earlybird Christmas shoppers...

Have you seen the new Loop Troupers at The Small Object? These remind me of my all-time favorite Christmas tree ornaments, tiny wooden angels with darling little smiles and delicate little triangular wings. I used to pretend that they came to life at night and had little adventures in our living room.

#12 and #20 look like Little Omi to me.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Flashback to Flashback Friday

Last Friday I promised to post a picture of the Sunbonnet Sue quilt my grandmother made using appliqu├ęs her grandmother had made. This was the best I could do, unfortunately there's a whole row not showing here. Still, I like how this photo shows off the exquisite hand quilting my grandma did. Something to strive for!

This one is my favorite:

Check my Flickr page for more close-ups.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Let it go, Indy.

After much hemming and hawing, Googling, brainstorming, and 2 trips to the fabric store to look at patterns, I have decided to give up on sewing Little Omi's Halloween costume myself this year. I made it official on Monday by purchasing this zebra costume at Old Navy. At $14.50 I could hardly turn it down, considering the fabric alone for a costume would cost more than that. It did break my heart just a little, though. See, this year Halloween falls on a Wednesday, which means it will be on a library story time day and Little Omi would actually have someplace to wear her costume. Plus, I dreamt up the best idea I've ever had for a Halloween costume and it even has a literary theme: The Very Hungry Caterpillar! I just don't have the sewing experience to figure out exactly how it would work, though. If anyone out there has made this costume, please let me know how you did it! I won't give up entirely, however. There's always next year, when Little Omi might actually go trick-or-treating.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Fabric addiction, meet bowl addiction

Before I developed my fabric addiction, I already had an unhealthy addiction to dinnerware, especially bowls. I just love bowls, and most of my favorite foods tend to be things that are eaten out of bowls (soup, cereal, and especially i c e c r e a m ). I just picked up four little bowls and matching teacups for Little Omi (only 2 made it into the photo because some little imp was busy stacking the others on the floor nearby). We are drinking from cups these days, but it is difficult to find just the right size cup for little hands. I like these squat little teacups because they fit right in her hands and they also don't hold too much liquid (in case of spills).

Friday, October 5, 2007

Flashback Friday: Nanna technology

This week's theme, from Kirsty, is devoted to our wonderful crafty grandmothers and what they taught us.

The first photo is of my dad's side of the family. My memory is that we all got together for Thanksgiving, although I'm not sure why I am wearing a green shamrock pin on my cardigan! There's my grandma in the red jacket. We only got to see my dad's parents once a year, so there wasn't a lot of time for her to pass along too many crafty skills, although I do remember going shopping for miniatures with her and making some fun sequin-covered styrofoam Easter eggs one year. I also received my all-time favorite t-shirt from this grandma. It read: "anything boys can do girls can do better." She's a mad quilter now, and she made Little Omi the most amazing Sunbonnet Sue baby quilt using fabrics that belonged to her grandmother. (I'll try to post pics of the quilt tomorrow.) She has definitely inspired me in my sewing and quilting pursuits!

The second pic is of my mom, sister, mom's folks, and me participating in a protest demonstration against a big sign that was erected one summer along the highway that passes through Allenspark, Colorado. The sign completely blocked the scenic view of the mountains, and so one of the local residents cut it down. Our t-shirts are in support of this woman, dubbed "Chainsaw Maggie." There hasn't been a sign in that location ever since. My mom's mother was a bit of an activist, and even served as our town's first woman mayor. She died when I was only 7, so I didn't get to learn any crafting at her knee, although she was a knitter and she sewed. In fact, it is her Bernina that I have been using to sew all the sunbonnets and other projects I've posted here, so I like to think there's a part of her in all of the things I make.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Autumn = corduroy

I *h e a r t* corduroy. I just picked up a couple of yards of this lovely chocolate brown mini-wale on sale at our local Hancock's and immediately starting thinking smocks, bonnets, and skirts. This is the first skirt I've ever made. I used bits of this tutorial, but drastically reduced the amount of fabric for the width since I was using a heavier fabric. The trim on the bottom is from one of the Civil War-era reproduction fat quarters I received a while back. I like sewing for Little Omi because the clothes are so small, they're almost like little mock-ups of bigger sizes—so if you totally screw something up, the disaster is on a smaller scale, too.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

My old stomping grounds

My mother is on vacation in Colorado right now, enjoying the show that the aspens are putting on for fall. She sent me this photo, taken just a few steps away from my old workplace at Rocky Mountain National Park. Autumn at the park is just about the best time of year. The tourists are mostly back home, and the busy season starts winding down. Things get pretty peaceful, except for the elk rut, which can get a bit crazy but is always fun. Can you hear the water? And the aspen leaves quaking in the light breeze?

I want my ramune!

We made our monthly pilgrimage to Super Cao Nguyen market in the city yesterday to purchase a 20-lb. bag of rice and a crate of ramen for Big Omi's lunches. If only we had brought our nifty new soft-sided cooler, we could have picked up some frozen mackeral (the yummiest fish out there, in my book) and brought it home for dinner. We'll have to plan better next time. Little Omi got a bamboo rice paddle and a small strainer for her little nook in the kitchen. I picked out some "gourmet" Pocky to indulge in this week.

We always make sure to buy a couple bottles of ramune (pronounced rah-moo-nay), which I highly recommend to anyone who hasn't had the pleasure of trying it yet. It's basically a 7-Up type of fizzy sweet lemony soda, but the best part is the bottle it comes in. The mouth of the bottle is sealed with a small glass marble, which you pop into the bottle using a little plastic thingamajig that comes with the bottle. Then, the glass marble acts like the metal ball in a gerbil's water bottle—that is, it drops into the mouth of the bottle as you tilt it towards your mouth so the liquid doesn't come out very fast. When you get near the end and you're really tipping the bottle up, you have to go in and move the marble out of the way with your tongue to get the last few drops. When you're all done, the marble rolling around inside the neck of the bottle makes a wonderful sound. Big Omi remembers being a little kid in Japan and throwing fits to get ramune from street vendors. Little Omi worked hard at getting a sip all the way home from the market.
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