I am slowly warming up to using flowers from our garden for decorating the house. Some of it is involuntary, like this time.
I was gardening and preparing the plants for winter. Moved a large branch out of the way and -crunch-! Oops, forgot how brittle mature mums were. So now our kitchen has a bit more fall flair.
Saturday, October 26, 2013
I am slowly warming up to using flowers from our garden for decorating the house. Some of it is involuntary, like this time.
Friday, June 28, 2013
Of course, I may be biased (or sleep-deprived), but here are some choice scenes from D2's life.
I fish him out of the tub (like I always do) and wrap him in the towel (like I always do), and ask him (like I always do), "Who did I catch?"
D2 usually says it like it is, naming himself, but this time he says, "Daddy!" and giggles.
I feign confusion and ask, "Really? I thought this was D2!"
He says, "No! Daddy!" and is really cracking himself up at this point.
I poke and prod him, eliciting more giggles, and say, "That's strange. I was looking for D2, not Daddy."
D2 - dying by now - says, "NO! DADDY!"
Later on, he graciously confessed that it was indeed him, without any further prodding from me.
D2: "BIIIIIIG BOOOOOOHHHH!"
Big Bro, aka D1: "Yes, D2?"
D2: "Hm… -smiles sociably- Funny."
That was it. He was just making small talk.
Toilet training D2 has been… interesting. He sort of wants to do the big boy thing and use the potty, as long as it doesn't, you know, involve the actual using of the potty. Like, sitting, taking off his diaper, that sort of thing. Other than that, he's all for it.
He even tries to potty train his stuffed animals. After one unsuccessful attempt, I looked away for a moment, and when I looked again, I see D2 holding his cow over his potty, the same way I hold him in place (because he sits down, realizes where he is and tries to wriggle up). He even bopped heads with it the way I do to reassure D2 when he's (not quite) sitting on the potty. After a minute, he took the cow off, flipped it upside down, sighed heavily, and toddled off, cow under his arm. I guess the cow didn't make water, either.
If I need to get D2 out of my hair for a spell, like when I'm making dinner and he's whining around my legs, I just tell him that I think we need to clean the floor. The boy rushes for his toy vacuum cleaner and occupies himself with the OCD task of vacuuming the floor for up to half an hour. I mean… part of me wishes we actually got him a real vacuum cleaner, 'cause then we'd have the cleanest floor in the county, but part of me worries that we are going to have a King of Janitors on our hands. The boy's been obsessed with vacuum cleaners and brooms since forever (and, please understand, we are not). Incidentally, do you know how hard it was to find a toy vacuum cleaner that is NOT pink? Domestic labor gender stereotypes much?
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
This is an article on a kind of strangely named Business Insider site (I say "strangely named" because, from what I can see, there does not seem to be THAT much emphasis on business there). ANYWAY.
The article is interesting in that it showcases research by a North Carolina State University's Joshua Katz, who studied all kinds of different ways different parts of US call the same thing.
For example, we all know the "pop-soda-coke" thing, but did you know that, apparently, only in Philadelphia region do people call a long sandwich with cold cuts, lettuce/tomato etc. a "hoagie" while the rest of the States call it a "sub"? Or the apparent fact that Americans can't seem to agree on how to pronounce "pecan pie"?
It's a real nice visual treat, as well, with maps looking very watercolor-y and everythin'. So, check it out.
Thursday, June 6, 2013
The gap is thirteen years, to be precise. So, you would think there would be a world of difference between the two of them.
Let me tell you, aside from different height and their dexterity levels, they are pretty much the same.
I mean, they both need constant supervision.
Because they both have attention spans of a butterfly on ecstasy. Except when it's their binkies. For D1, the fifteen-year-old, it's his iPod with FB, and for D2, the toddler, it's - strangely enough - his toy vacuum cleaner. They can focus on those for hours. Anything else? Good luck trying to get one of them to set the table without him wandering off to "just check something". Similarly, the process of putting up the toys often turns into oooh-shiny-ball-play-NOW process.
Also, they are both in a constant epic struggle for independence.
The battle cry for D2 is "SYAAAAAAAAM!" ("sam" means "myself" in Russian) and sounds hilarious when emitted by a super-intense toddler who is in the process of trying to buckle himself into his high chair (because, duuude, safety first!) D1 does not come out and say it like that, but that is exactly what's playing in my head when I try to tell him how to clean the bathroom and he's all, "iknowiknowiknowiknowiknowiknowiknow!"
And let's not even start on the drama of homework.
Both of them are REALLY into helping. With things that I do not need help with, of course, while the things that I specifically asked them to do remain untouched.
They both think that they can hide things from me. D2 covers the wet washrag that I told him not to put in his mouth with a toy and THEN attempts to shove it in, while D1 does not think that I'll figure out the implications of unsanctioned ice-cream wrappers in the trash. It's cute, really.
They are both very sweet and snuggly. A lot of times it is because they are in trouble or want something, but who am I to look a gift horse in the mouth?
D1 says, "Wow, mom, you look really good today," and D2 randomly snuggles my hips and whatever other areas he can reach. I don't ruin it by saying, "What do you want?" or "What did you do?" but enjoy the moment, just raising my guard from stand-by to high alert. They do have their manners and mind them, most of the time.
They both have laser vision when it comes to hidden treats. It's pretty useless for me to try to stash anything. They just stumble on my stashes, completely accidentally.
Lastly, you would think that D1 would be way ahead of D2 when it concerns coherency.
You would be wrong.
I regularly have to translate what each one of them are saying to my husband, and D1 is not even using slang for the most part. It's a weird mix of "well, I knew what I was saying" and cliche quips that don't mean what he's trying to get them to mean.
For example, in D1's mind, "Well, cycling is a way of life," somehow means "If you're a nice person, it will show up in your cycling style." Huh? Yeah, H did not get that, either.
The upshot and downside of this is that H constantly thinks that D1 is not listening to him, and D1 thinks that dad just does not respect what he has to say, because, ugh.
D2 thinks we're all frustratingly obtuse, especially when he thrusts a limp fist urgently in the sort of kind of direction of the kitchen counter and says, "UUUUUUH!" Even though he's perfectly capable of naming many different foods and certain actions (such as "give", "fall", "put"), he, much like his brother, seems to think that I'm supposed to just read his mind.
I must admit, I've gotten pretty good at it, even though I constantly try to get both of them to verbalize their thoughts properly. D2 repeats what I say, smiles beatifically, and continues with his impression of an unmotivated protester. D1 does the SYAAAAAM!… I'm sorry, "IknowIknowIknow!" thing and next time says, "Mom, we're having a band picnic next Thursday," meaning, naturally, "Mom, I need to bring a gallon of juice and a ton of paper plates for my after-school activity that will cut into our scheduled plans."
Pretty obvious, don't you think?
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
I'm writing a book.
Some of you already knew that, I guess, but this is the big "coming out" post.
As a lot of you who know me are aware, I have dabbled in the written word before. I wrote a book for each of D1's birthdays every year from when he was 5 to 11. And I've done photo comics, which involve a plot and character development.
I've always had stories bumping around in my head, though, admittedly, they were always just the "what-if" ideas, with vague characters and no endings.
This one, though… I had let it bounce around my brain for a while before realizing that I actually have a whole world and the characters and the story pretty fleshed out. I just need to write it down and polish it. In my ample spare time between full-time job, toddler/teenager parenting (whose bright idea was it to do this parental thing, again? Oh, right, me!), and running a house.
But hey, I decided that this book is happening. Not sure how, but it's happening.
Right now I'm on chapter 10 (of about 30-ish, maybe?), and it's going a whole lot slower than I thought originally. When I first started, back in the fall, I knew there was going to be a concert scene, and we had just bought tickets for Swedish House Mafia's One Last Tour, for March, and I sort of thought, "Oh, too bad I will have written that scene by then and won't be able to use it as inspiration."
It's the end of April (the show was amazing), and I'm nowhere close to that scene in the book. Dammit.
Part of my problem is that I am so used to working in the creative corporate world (yes, it's a thing) that it terrifies me to not have an art director, a marketing team, or a style guide hanging over me and micro-managing every step of my process.
To have to make my own creative decisions is scary when you have not really done it for over a decade. D1's books don't count, because they actually followed a pretty strict formula - they had to be about whatever he was into that year (knights, pirates, sci-fi) and had to deal with him overcoming his main vice at the time (lying, not listening, not following directions). And because they were children's books, I had to stick to pagination that was illustration-friendly, so that I could follow the format of page-with-words opposite page-with-picture. So, very strict rules to follow.
Here, though, it's anything goes. I mean, I still have to stick to my world's rules, which I had to work out beforehand, but I mean, characters?
Do I make the main heroine more assertive? Less pushy? More bubbly? How much is too bubbly? Is she prudish? Sexually active? Can I get a style guide here, please?
And who is checking that I hit all the main marketing points to make it more sellable? Oh, wait, this is not the kind of thing to need to be Walmart-friendly.
So, getting over these mental blocks is hard. Whine-whine-whine. I know.
I am very lucky that I have some really cool friends who have agreed to be my beta-readers and have been pointing things out that are confusing or illogical or just badly written. I have asked them all to be as brutal as possible, because that is what I need at this point. But then, of course, the insecure part of me is like…. "But… does it mean my book sucks?" I know it's not the next Hunger Games or even Divergent, but the slow pace of some of my friends' reading is making me fear that I might be writing a shoddy version of Twilight, just less financially successful.
I know, more whining. It's that kind of day.
Now that the first third (or so) of the book is done and the pace has been set and my characters introduced, etc etc, I will admit that I am having lots of fun, though I have to be careful of the fan fiction. I love reading fan fiction, and I think there are some really awesome examples of the genre out there, but it should stay in the fanfic realm. I am as giddy as anyone to find good House fluff or Remus/Sirius slash, but I don't want to actually see it in the original that the fanfic is based on. One of the reasons people write fanfics is because they fall in love with characters and often skew their portrayal or the situation to be on the rosy side (unless it's an angst-fic, in which case, everything is grey-colored). And fanfics tend to concentrate on minute little details or emotions that get left out of the actual book/show, because, well, they're too small and irrelevant to the flow of the book.
I am familiar with the phrase "murder your darlings", which refers to reading through your draft and ripping out all the parts you are super fond of, because those are the ones that usually don't work. I think it's a fancier way of saying, "Don't write fan fiction of your own novel," because, really, you should leave this to your fans.
And, honestly, if this book ever gets published, I will totally measure its success by whether and how many fanfics it generates.
Sunday, May 12, 2013
Which brings us to the question, what to blog about, motherhood or D2's milestone of turning two?
How about both?
I give you, ladies and gentlemen....
Toddler-Baked Chicken with Onions, Garlic, and Rosemary!
The beauty of this dish is that it does not have to be done by a mom. It can be a sitter, grandma, dad (I know, OMG) or anyone else. All it requires is the presence of an active toddler, which is to say, pretty much any toddler who is awake. I did it yesterday, for example, and it was pretty successful.
Adapted from "All About Chicken" cookbook.
Makes 4 to 5 servings.
3.5 to 4.5 pounds chicken parts
3 medium onions
6 to 12 cloves garlic
4 tbsp olive oil
4 tsp minced fresh rosemary or 2 tsp dried crumbled
Gather all your ingredients on the counter. Tell the toddler to step away from the dishwasher. Tell him again. Come over there and drag him away, giving him a toy to play with.
Turn oven to preheat to 400 degrees F.
Wash the chicken and pat dry. Watch out of the corner of your eye as your toddler drags a step stool over to the counter with the knife block. Speed up the washing process.
Nervously eye the toddler as he climbs very carefully up on the step stool and tell him in a dangerous voice, "Dude, what did mommy say about kitchen counters?" This is to buy you some time, because of course who in his right mind ever remembers what mommy said about kitchen counters? Expedite the drying process, fling the paper towel aside, and scoop the toddler off the counter. Put him down and attempt to distract him.
Return to the cooking process in false hope that he's engaged in something.
Cut onions into rings, nervously glancing over your shoulder and miraculously not chopping your finger off. Thinly slice the garlic.
Toss onions, garlic, 2 tbsp olive oil and rosemary together. Squawk in surprise as your toddler rams you with his head from behind. Gather the pieces that fell out on the counter and put them quickly back in. Five second rule, plus, you just cleaned.
Drag the step stool over and direct your toddler to climb up so he can watch, as you spread half the mixture in a shallow baking dish or roasting pan just large enough to hold all the chicken in a single layer. Talk to him the whole time explaining every little thing you are doing, because it seems to mesmerize him. Resist his attempts to help.
Season the chicken liberally with salt and black pepper to taste. Accidentally oversalt because someone reached over to happily slap a piece of chicken. Drag the toddler with his step stool over to the sink so you can wash his hand as you try not to touch anything with your raw chickened hands.
The toddler reaches over and snuggles into you saying tenderly, "Maaaammaaaa!" Roll your eyes but get filled with enormous warmth. Finish seasoning the chicken.
Put the chicken on top of the onion mixture and cover with the remaining half. Drizzle with 2 tbsp olive oil. Snatch the knife out of toddler's hands that you forgot to put away when you had him climb up on the step stool.
Put the whole thing (minus the toddler) into the oven and bake until dark meat pieces exude clear juices when pricked deeply with fork, about 45 to 55 minutes. If you are doing white meat (because certain members of your household are picky that way), they won't exude anything, and you should bake them a little longer, like 60-70 minutes.
Afterwards, take a nap. Serve for dinner, garnering lots of praise despite oversalting.
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
So, I've got Disney Princesses on my mind lately, because I am working on gift bags and a personalization line that involves that license.
There has been a lot of talk about the Princesses' new look, which Disney revealed in early 2013. I hate to sound like a hipster (really, I do), but it's such old news to anyone in the industry, since most companies that have the Disney Princess license have been working with the new style guides for a while (because, if you want your merchandize to be in stores in January, you need to design it in July, and sometimes earlier).
So, the new look (should it be capitalized? "The New Look"!!!) does not bother me one way or another anymore, so instead I found myself thinking about the Hipster Princesses, by the talented Viria, that I have come across a while back. That got me thinking about the different identities that DP could take on, and my search began.
Allow me to present to you
I intentionally left out all the live photography stuff, because I wanted to concentrate on 2-D renditions, and no slight was intended.
Let us begin with a picture for which I was unable to find the source. Does anyone know who drew this? I found it on a Tumbler account that simply posted the image without giving the credit.
Following this, look at this sweet snapshot (also could not trace to the source):
Drawn by Viria12 on DeviantArt, these cool chicks really look like hipster versions of everyone's favorite girls while staying true to each of the girls' personalities. I especially LOVE Pocahontas and Mulan (because, dude! Mushu hoodie!)
These blew me away. I love Claire Hummel's illustration style, and as someone with a fashion background (and I loved my history of costume classes), I was really glad to see someone getting all the clothes right - AND taking the time to render everything faithfully.
Speaking of fashion, when I searched for "couture Disney Princesses", in my wildest dreams I could not imagine that I would find this piece of visual equivalent of a chocolate truffle. Just sayin'.
Incidentally, Sashiiko Anti is Russian, also just sayin'.
I absolutely adore Pocahontas, again. Something about that girl makes people draw really fantastic feisty fashions. Merida and Jasmin are both extremely wearable looks, while Tiana blows my mind with her super sexy elegant gown.
She also did the villains in haute couture style.
Last, but not least, l thought I'd give you something light and giggly.
Amy Mebberson, who is amazing, has this here Tumbler account where she posts little one-panel comics about DPs. She's got their personalities (and looks) down pat, and her sense of humor is incredible. Art department peeps got many giggles from looking at these gems.
Do you know of any other cool Disney Princesses art? Let me know in comments!
Thursday, May 2, 2013
D2 is a very helpful toddler, in case you did not know. I bought him a $4 "gardening" set at Kmart that has the shovel, rake, and tiller thing.
He was so in awe of finally having a "BOSYAAAAA!" (big) shovel), but he's having fun with the rake, too. (The tiller thing he's not sure what to do with yet, and uses it as pretend vacuum cleaner, because, duuuude, vacuum cleaners are the best!).
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
But, the fun part is that he turned 15. Big boy now and all that.
Anyway. I decorated things the morning of his birthday/party, while D2 fed himself kasha and APPY! (apples), so I guess instead of dinner and a show he got a breakfast and a show. D2 was very interested in the proceedings and kept pointing to me and inquiring as to my actions. At least, that's what I think he was doing, since he still sounds Japanese when he talks. I explained that these were decorations for Big Bro, which appeared to have blown his mind, because he started pointing at everything going "BeeBoo?" and crowing delightedly.
I think maybe he thought that banners and streamers were a new unfathomable manifestation of BeeBoo, whom he adores, by the way.
D1 made his way downstairs at a reasonable time and appeared pleased with the decorations, which was my first clue that he actually wanted the whole party to happen and was glad that we were making a big deal about it. Talk about subtle clues!
When I asked him, a month ago, if he wanted to have a party with friends, he sort of shrugged and made a mooing sound. You know, the kind teen boys make when they think they sound non-committal. Because 15 is not as big a deal as 16 is, age-wise. Silly mom with her silly metric system.
So, for a while I felt like I was working to create this birthday party that I needed, for some reason, while my child was tagging along just to humor me. Because, really, who DOESN'T want to add more things to one's to-do list and coordinate food/activities/etc. for a gaggle of teens? Especially when the said gaggle includes vegans.
I was complaining to my friend Emily about it and was like, "What do teenage vegans even eat?"
She said, without missing a beat, "Doritos. Trust me on that one."
Turns out, they do eat Doritos, because two huge bags of those were almost all gone by the end of the shenanigans. But also, because we're those kind of parents, we (and by "we" I really mean H) made vegan chili and grilled zucchini as well as having the hamburgers and hot dogs for the carnivorous members of the party. Poor vegan in question was very touched that there were things for her to eat, since she came to the party expecting to munch on crackers all day.
Also I provided them with a tin of nuts, which got mostly consumed by the carnivores. Lots of "do you like nuts?" jokes were uttered, because, hey, nuuuuts, hu-huh. What can I say, I aim to please.
We even broke out the fire pit and had us a two+ hour s'mores bonanza (which the vegan girl could not eat, but it was ok, because by then she left), and a nice talk, because by then I stopped freaking out about accidentally laming up my son's party with my lamity-lame ways. I mean, he never indicates that he is worried about us being lame, but I worry. Because, ok, do you sit with the kids at the table? What if you're going to seem like the helicopter mom? Do you give them space and stay away? What if that seems rude and like you don't care about your child? What do you talk about? I mean, the old trope of asking questions to make people talk about themselves can't work with teens, because it's the -gasp- adult asking them to divulge stuff about their lives. Sooooo, what do you say?
Very stressful. I am not sure any teenager stresses so much about his parents as some parents (ahem, like me) stress about not ruining it for his friends. Just sayin'.
Sunday, April 14, 2013
My super long scarf snagged on the baby gate at the top of the stairs as I was descending, D2 in my arms. I managed to execute a feline twist and not tumble to my death, merely sliding a couple of steps and pulling an arm out of the socket. Although I bet Isadora could slide on her ass a lot more gracefully than I did.
D2 wasn't sure if it was supposed to be a fun or a scary experience, and was generally confused about the whole thing.
The upshot of it all is that now I get to tell people that I almost pulled an Isadora Duncan and see who gets the reference.
The only reason I know about her is that she was sort of part of the cultural background of growing up in Soviet Union, by virtue of being a wife to Sergey Yesenin (famous Russian poet). I remember a humorous poem poking fun at somebody's affected peasant style of writing, which referenced Mme. Isadora (Yesenin was known for the romantic down-to-earth, rural style of poetry).
Also, the lady sure could create drama, even in death: she became almost decapitated when a long scarf she was wearing became tangled in the spokes of a car she was riding.
She should really be more famous for what she did, which was dancing. She is credited with helping usher in the new, more natural style of dancing, countering the rigid rules of traditional ballet. She toured all over Europe and the Americas, even starting a school in Moscow (that part did not work out, when the USSR government decided it was not going to concentrate on the arts).
I did not realize until I got older and decided to look up information on her just how tragic and full of drama Duncan's entire life was. She had two children who were killed in a car accident. The car they were riding in with their nanny stalled, and the driver got out to start it again (remember, this were the 1910's), forgetting to set the hand brake. The car rolled into the river, killing everyone inside. I cannot even imagine the grief and shock she must have felt to hear of the accident.
Isadora tried to have another child, but the baby only lived a couple of hours and was never even named.
Her relationships were kind of messy and dramatic, and towards the end of her life she was as famous for her dancing as she was for financial woes. I guess back in the 1920's there was no celebrity cellulite obsession and the public had to contend itself with gossip of lovers and money troubles.
Some years back, I did a stupid and asked my friend, who is European born-and-raised, and a dancer by profession whether she knew about Isadora Duncan. She gave me a look like, "Um, DUH." I deserved that, I guess.
It's probably like asking an artist if they know who Michelangelo is. Though if you ask D1, he might tell you that he's one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.