Sunday, August 28, 2011

Bubbles at Saxapahaw

A few weeks ago we went to the Saxapahaw Farmer's Market on a Saturday evening for their free concert and festival. Because of a strong chance of rain, the Farmer's Market had been canceled, but we were able to listen to some great music, and enjoy the the hippie atmosphere. The farmer's market location is right alongside the Haw River, and it was gorgeous.

The most popular attraction that day for us was the insane bubble station. A couple in their fifties had brought a traveling bubble station, with gallons of prime bubble juice, and all kinds of wands and contraptions for making bubbles, from tiny sizes for kiddos, to giant floating bubbles for the teens and adults. So many people of differing ages were having such a great time that I approached the woman to ask half jokingly if she did parties. In response, she happily gave me the recipe for her magical bubble juice, and it would be a crime not to share:

The Most Amazing Bubble Juice Ever
Makes about one gallon, so can be halfed
  • 9 cups water (distilled is best)
  • 4 cups bubble mix (she uses Imperial Super Bubbles)
  • 1 cup Dawn dish soap (regular or ultra concentrated)
  • 4 oz. liquid glycerine
Mix ingredients gently in the above order the night before you want to use it! That's it!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Dancing Queen

Marcos' sister Liz has been requesting videos of Gigi, so although none of you besides our family members will probably watch the entire 45 seconds of these videos, here they are! We're partial, but we really think that Gigi's got something goin' on with her dance moves.


* The music called "Chora me liga" is Liz's favorite Brazilian Country Western-ish song and it is performed by João Bosco e Vinícius.

* Check out Gigi's fancy foot work: The true beginnings of a Samba Girl! Wait for it on that first video. It's worth it to see her feet work double time.

* Gigi has started to love stuffed animals. The monkey her Grandpa Gaga gave her makes a particularly good dance partner because he has long arms... but, she actually just likes to give him smooches most of the time.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Finishing Touches

Moving into a new place is a way to recreate a home, to give a fresh spin on your living space, and for me it is a chance to get my creative juices flowing and see what I can make with as little money as possible. Here are a few projects I have finished in the past week or two, that are one by one making our house a home.

#1: The window bench cushion. In our new kitchen, we have a big window and lots of light. I love the window, and I love that there is a built-in bench under it, for sitting and reading, eating breakfast, or talking with the chef. I knew when we moved in that I wanted to have a cushion in the window nook, and after researching the exorbitant prices for a custom-sized cushion, and imagining myself hand-making a lumpy pillow, I did what I sometimes do in times of true desperation: I went to Walmart. In the sale section I bought an ugly outdoor bench cushion that I knew would be too short, and I found a basket with a lid at World Market that fit perfectly in the gap, and that would offer me storage space for Gigi's bibs, reusable grocery bags, water bottles, etc. I used a Hawaiian print sundress my mom bought at a thrift store in Hawaii, and sewed it into a cover to fit the cushion. I am slightly in love with our Hawaiian kitchen corner.

#2: The backsplash frame. For this home I did something I have always wanted to do, but have been too chicken: I bought a print from an etsy shop. It is a Julia Child quote that reads, "People who love to eat are always the best people", and my friend Damaris introduced me to it through her foodie blog. Because the print is 11" by 17", I was left with a slightly awkward selection at the craft store for frames. Luckily, they had a plain black frame, which was what I wanted, and it was only $6, which is all I wanted to pay for it. But problem: I got home and the look of the solid black frame against the taupe and yellow of the print was too harsh and had that icky look of a staged house. How could I change it, I though to myself. And then, an idea from the days of crafting with my friend Abby: decoupage! (Which is a fancy word for "glue some things onto other things"). To soften the frame visually, I ripped up an old newsweek magazine and used just the text portions to mod podge onto the frame in slanted strips. The end product really enhances my cooking.

#3: Gigi's pennants. So, I know that they are a trendy way to decorate, but I have always liked pennants (triangle flags), but have never had any good reason to make them, until now. In the room we designated as Gigi's room, there is a high shelf on the wall that I like to call a real "man job": fully functional, never let you down, but boy does it lack something aesthetically. Before we moved in, I thought and I thought and I thought about how to add something that would make it pretty and cover those darned exposed brackets, and during that time we went to a wedding party where the entire ceiling was draped with pennants made from the most exquisite fabrics (after some sleuthing I discovered that the sister of the groom works for a company that prints people's designs onto fabric, so each of the fabrics really was exquisite). I came home from that party, and in two days I had made a stretch of pennants in little girl fabric scraps from my collection, that was the exact length of the shelving around Gigi's walls. With the wooden block letters my sister Lindsay made for Gigi, and the collection of beautiful stuffed animals I inherited from a friend, Gigi's room has become personalized, simple and splashy. Just how I wanted it!

Up next in the "em casa" episodes: the saga of redoing the walls in the bathrooms.


A quiet house used to mean that Gigi was somewhere getting into trouble. Now, it still sometimes means that Gigi is getting into trouble, but more often it means that she is quietly looking through her books. Can I just tell you how victorious we felt when a few weeks ago Gigi finally had the attention span to sit down and look quietly at a book? Hallelujah times a million.

Gigi's favorite book is a big book called "First Thousand Words in Japanese". She doesn't know the words are in Japanese, of course, so we are happy to let her point at the pages and narrate the things she is obsessed with, like agua, and balls, and hats, and balloons, and bananas and horses, and trucks and airplanes. Sometimes I am tempted to teach her a few words in Japanese, but I remind myself that we have already consigned her to considerable future confusion with Portuguese and English, so we can probably call it good.

There is something just so beautiful about our little girl looking through books! I'll wait a few years before I start slipping Dostoyevsky novels onto her bookshelf...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Workaday World

I think it's time to just write about life, and what we're up to. Yes, I have fifty-nine photos I want to post of Gigi being ridiculously cute, but I made a commitment months ago to restrain myself to writing about Gigi only every OTHER post, remember? I'm trying to stay on track here.

In a word, things are great.

Marcos just started two classes this week at Durham Tech Community College (after acing two in the summer), and he will finish his final class for his Associates degree next semester and be done in the Spring. Whew! In the fall he will transfer in to the Information Systems major courses as a junior at the University of North Carolina, and hopefully breeze through those last few years so that he can finally work full time programming, building websites, and all of the things he loves doing the best. He is currently working half time for a boss, doing websites on the side as his own boss, being a half time stay at home dad, taking classes half time, beating me at our dinner cook-off competitions, and keeping young men in shape as one of the Young Men leaders at church, and the Assistant Scout Master. I am thankful every day for Marcos. He really is as good as it gets.

And me? Well, I just had my job secured through the end of the year! This may not sound glorious to anyone else, but I am thrilled to have a good few months to make myself an imperative member of the team so that when my position is up for review with the budget in December, I will hopefully be reinstated for next year. UNC is a state school, and we have had severe budget cuts, so for a month or two I was being paid on a monthly basis and realized acutely how demoralizing it is to show up for work when you are not certain you will be there two weeks later. The Dean of the school joked with me that I should design a shirt that says "Save Metta" and start a campaign to save my job. Hey, at least it's on his radar. Tomorrow is the student orientation for our Masters in Social Work program, and having waded through the thick and thin of recruitment, admissions and financial aid with this group, I have to admit that I am very excited to see them in the morning and put faces to names, after all this time. I love my job.

And my other job rocks as well. I love being with my little girl. Yesterday I was getting ready for work at the vanity and I sneezed, and Gigi looked up from where she was watching Sesame Street songs on the bed from Daddy's phone and said, "Be-shu!" (bless you). If hearts really could melt, I would just be a goner. We love being parents, and especially Gigi's parents.

In other domestic news, I have been finishing some of my house projects lately. I apologize for being lame and not posting so much as a single photo of our new place since we moved in oh, two months ago, but with my workaday life, project time has been harder to come by. Things are coming along though, corner by corner, and I will post photos soon. I am starting to really love what we are making of our new living space.

And I think that brings me to where I can post about Gigi again! Whew! Thanks for reading.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Super Mom Points

What has this Mama been doing? Indulging Gigi in a new kiddie pool for our back patio...

...and staying calm and poised during some recent messes (first the currant box, and then a bag of lentils, in one day's work), all so that I can earn myself a few Super Mom Points.

I'm trying to stock up in preparation for the deficit I will run when she becomes a teenager.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Nauvoo, City Beautiful

We have had some fun adventures this summer. During the second week of July we drove 16+ hours (each way) to Nauvoo, Illinois to take part in some good fun with some good people. The main reason we went was because our friends the Austins here in Chapel Hill had signed up to actually be in the Nauvoo pageant this year, and about four of us families decided to go support them and to check out this unique little town in Western Illinois. Here they are in pageant clothing - on mainly the right side of the photo.

If you are not familiar with the Mormon church or you just need a recap, the town of Nauvoo is one of the "church history" sites that families like to visit to learn about their spiritual heritage. When the original saints - lead in the 1830s and 40s by the prophet Joseph Smith - started to gather, settle and build industrious and politically successful towns, they were historically chased out by mobs of people in neighboring areas who felt threatened by the success of the Mormons. At a number of very meaningful locations, the saints were forced to move westward to find a place where they could settle and find true religious freedom. So, although the church was originally restored in New York, the saints cut a westward path until they found peace in the Salt Lake valley, in Utah. Nauvoo is one of the most industrious and most successful towns they built on their journey westward across the plains. From a swamp on the shore of the Mississippi River, they drained the land and created an organized and highly productive town, which thrived for 7 years before the saints were forced to leave their homes, pack everything in a handcart or a horse-drawn wagon, and head off into the unknown. The church now owns much of the town, and has unearthed, excavated, and tried to recreate a historical town much like it would have looked in the late 1830s.

Unlike the pioneers, we didn't travel to Nauvoo on foot; we drove Balthazar, our trusty Honda Civic. After Marcos' heroic push of driving 8 hours through the night, we arrived somewhere in Ohio in the morning, blew up our air mattress and tried to catch some z's in the lawn behind a bowling alley while my mom took Gigi for an excursion.

And then after a few more hours of driving, an overnight at a clean hotel, and another last jog of driving the following morning, we arrived in Nauvoo at noon on July 14th and met our friends from North Carolina at the state park for an amazing picnic. We had all traveled different routes with different modes of transportation, but there we all were together, in Illinois for a picnic! Abby's parents live in Iowa, and were the only ones who had access to their own kitchen, so they did the Lion's share of the picnic preparations, and it was an incredible spread.

One of the {many} highlights of our Nauvoo trip was that I had the chance to see a few of my absolute favorite mission companions. Nanako Yamashita and I lived in an apartment in Shibuya, Tokyo together almost seven years ago as missionaries, and forged a bond that will never be broken. Her husband Rio happens to be doing a summer internship in Iowa and they and their son Airi were able to join us for the picnic, and spend the day with us in Nauvoo. It was a real treat to spend time together and enjoy each other's company now that we are both in the young mom phase of life. She is just as good in this role as she has been in all of the others.

After our picnic lunch, most of us headed over to join a tour that is directed by the Community of Christ church, which owns a few of the really great Joseph Smith homes and buildings. The tour took us along the banks of the Mississippi, where Joseph and Hyrum, and Joseph's wife Emma are buried. Below is a photo of our group in the upstairs room of the Red Brick store, where the Relief Society - the church's womens organization - was founded.

As the afternoon started to close we made our way to the grounds where the Country Fair and the Pageant are held. The Country Fair was completely free (like all things in Nauvoo that are owned by the church), and had endless fun activities for families. Everything was as it might have been in the 1840s, so there was square dancing, quilting, small crafts for children, hand-carts (below!), sack races, the stick pull, and everything pioneer. About half of the people present were there in Nauvoo as volunteer pageant cast members, so they were all wearing period clothing.

If you recognize the Abe Lincoln beard from one of the previous photos (at the park), that's our friend Colin. He had been growing out his beard for weeks in preparation for the pageant, and said that his coworkers had some very mixed feelings about it. Below, my mom gets double duty while we dance. It was a real treat to travel with her, because she is so helpful.

And here is the pageant. The main story line of the production is the building of the Nauvoo Temple, and the sacrifice that the saints made to create a thriving town out of a deserted swamp. We enjoyed it absolutely; as much as two adults with a busy 15-month old could enjoy it, while tag-teaming to allow Gigi to run around in the lawn as it pushed past her bedtime. Our friends Jill, Colin and their kiddos were great! It was the perfect end to our day.

The next morning we had to get a corny family photo, to celebrate the fact that there is not much else in some parts of the middle of the US besides miles and miles of corn rows. After breakfast we met our NC friends for a wagon ride, which was a lot of fun. We had a horse drawn wagon, with shade from the hot sun, and a narrator taught us about the town of Nauvoo and the history of the old shops and homes. At the height of its industry, Nauvoo had 12,000 inhabitants, which at that time rivaled Chicago in size.

Gigi did exceptionally well on our trip, considering that her nap times were shuffled much of the time. Below are our friends the Price family.

In the summer in Nauvoo, the pageant actors also do short vignettes throughout the week, and reenact important church historical events. During this enactment, the Joseph Smith actor gave a portion of what is known as the King Follett discourse, which was a sermon delivered at the funeral of Joseph Smith's friend by the same name. It was delivered in a grove of trees, and was opened by the Nauvoo bagpipe band, which played beautifully. I almost want to learn to play the bagpipe now; hearing them play just made my Scottish well up in me.

After pizza with our friends at a local pizzeria, we went to the "Sunset on the Mississippi" variety show that evening. It was performed mainly by senior couples who are serving missions in Nauvoo, and it was hilarious. Gigi chased her friend Seth around in the adjacent field during the show, and we were happy to see them entertaining themselves.

On our way back to the hotel, we drove up the hill and parked the car to admire the Nauvoo Temple in the sunset. We didn't have time this trip to go in, but that gives us a really good reason to go back. The Nauvoo Temple is stunning.

On our final morning in Nauvoo we joined our friends for the Trail of Hope reenactment on Parley Street. This street runs from the center of old Nauvoo town down to the water's edge, and it was on this street that the saints lined up and waited for their turn to cross the Mississippi when threats became so numerous that they feared for their safety. Along the street, actors from the pageant were standing waiting for groups to pass, and they delivered excerpts from real journal entries that the saints had written at this time. It was humbling and inspirational to hear the actual words of saints at this point in their lives, as they left all of their belongings and even their homes to find a new place to settle and worship in peace. Can you imagine waiting in line to cross a river into the unknown, leaving your home empty, and taking only a few possessions with you? That was our last hour in Nauvoo, and it left on us an impression of the incredible faith of those Saints.

{Love this journal entry from the 1840s. Love my baby girl sleeping while we drove past endless hours of corn fields.}

And then, too soon, it was time to head back home. On the way back we wisely decided to stop half way, in Columbus, Ohio, and spend the night with another fabulous mission companion of mine named Lauren Stacey, and her family. Lauren and I lived together for six blissful weeks in Chiba, Japan, and we had such similar goals and ambitions that our time there has laid the foundation for a really amazing friendship. You know how sometimes when you meet a friend's parents you suddenly *get* your friend so much better than you did before? Well, I think that meeting Nanako or Lauren would tell you exactly why I loved Japan so much. They are just the highest caliber of people.

We had originally planned to leave the next morning and drive to North Carolina through Sunday, but as Gigi had done so much better during our overnight stretches than during our day stretches, we allowed ourselves the luxury of spending the day with the Staceys and enjoying their company. Our dear friend Rebecca (remember every beautiful photo of Gigi ever taken?) and her family also just recently moved to Columbus, but unfortunately they were out of town so we had to be content visiting their beautiful but empty house. Wish you were there, Rebecca, Dan and the monkeys!

And that was our trip to Nauvoo, Illinois. We drove home that night through the mountains of West Virginia and arrived home safe and sound in the early hours of the morning. I know that traveling with busy girl Gigi wasn't always pleasant, but I am so glad that we went anyway, and had the experiences that we had and made the memories that we made! I have the on-going goal in my life to be a fun person and to do fun things, and I like to think that we just got a tiny step closer with this trip!