Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Sunday, February 24, 2013

I can't just say "I'm visiting the nieces" anymore...

...because now they live with my newest nephew, too. 
And as much love as an auntie can possibly have for a teeny-tiny nephew

It pales in comparison to how much absolute adoration his Ah-Ma and Ah-Gong (paternal grandparents, but in Taiwanese, not Toisanese as I call my grands) have for him.

But the nieces (who are big enough that Uncle Oreo is over his fear that "they might break!") loved their hats, and now my mom wants one too. 
If I could have a magic fairy say "Abracadabra" and grant one wish, it would be to have my family closer by.  But it's such a blessing to have a mobile family that can gather from PA, MD, and MI to celebrate the littlest little, and to enjoy the bigger littles too.

♫ All I want is having you and music, music, music. ♫

Put another nickel in
In the nickelodeon
All I want is having you
And music, music, music.*

* What is a nickelodeon?  All I know is the tv station.  And I expect I'm on the young end of people who know this song.  I'm thinking a nickelodeon must be something in the jukebox family?

I miss vocal music.
Our church choir director up and went to seminary, and has since graduated, but has not returned to Central PA except for brief visits.
And even before that, I wasn't singing in the choir because I was busy interpreting.
And in the Deaf section, there's not much feedback to my vocalizing, even though I usually sing harmony with whatever the praise team is doing. 
And because I'm the only interpreter at NCF currently**, getting in the rotation for praise team isn't a viable option at this point either.

** I would be delighted to get a co-terp!  Accepting applications!

But I've found that, given a choice, I always sing harmony.  Not that I can't sing lead, but that old adage of "once an alto, always an alto" is definitely true in my case.  That being said, it's not so much that I prefer the low parts (although I do), but that I really love singing around the lead, whether high or low harmonies.  Simon & Garfunkel, for example.
The Boxer, high harmony

Sounds of Silence, low harmony ***

***I'm not sure why the youtube embeds only seem to work for one video per blog post.  I'm using their own embed code.  Suggestions?

Today we had the pleasure of hearing our friends Abby & Micah Dunn perform folk/bluegrass at beautiful Fort Hunter Barn****.  There were a number of groups that had original pieces, and some that covered widely known pieces.  And it just made me realize how much I miss singing out loud.  I'm tired of singing quietly enough to not disturb those around me.

**** Barn?!  Well, why not.  Come to think of it, the last music party we went to was at a barn too... but that was for niece K's Makin' Music party.  Best pinata ever -- at one point they tipped over two enormous laundry hampers of instruments for the kids to play along.  Uncle Oreo asked if he could have his birthday party there next year.  We do love a sing-along.

This could be dangerous: the reason I started with Vicki's Tap Pups was because of an existential crisis, that there was no art or music in my life in any form.  Now I'm in my fifth year tapping with Vicki, and loving it*****.  

***** BTW, I never took any form of dance lessons as a child.  And when I went looking for tap classes, I wasn't in search of just any adult classes; I wanted to TAP.  

So, I'm gonna open myself up.  I sing a strong alto, or alternately I enjoy singing the bass line up an octave.  I've sung in church choirs, including solos and small ensembles since 5yo.  In college I was in chorales.  But it's been awhile.  Where can I put that to use?  Let's see what opportunties become available. 

PS I miss LeahRuth's "Sing-ins".  And I miss hymnsings during Lord's Supper service at the church I grew up in.  That might be a softer in than, for example, recording with someone.  But we'll see what God sends my way.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Happy birthday, Murg!

 Happy birthday, Murg!  Hope your 30th ushers in a year of unprecedented personal growth.

June 1983.  I was 3 1/2, he was 4mo.
You don't need hair for a photoshoot.  (6/1983)
But he's more than made up for it in recent years! (12/2012)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Frogs in hats

Now that I know the newest kidlet is a nephew joining two nieces, I was able to finish off the blue hat.  Even in these days of "would you like to know?", the parents specifically chose to wait until God's big reveal on each of their three kids.  So until today, it was a toss-up between flowers or earflaps and ties.  (Are ties ok on an infant hat?  He's got ties!  If the pediatrician-slash-mom says we should we'll cut them off.)  Doce is modeling K's, LopEar has N's, and BunnyFrog (you can't see his perky pink and white Easter ears in that much hat) is rather dwarfed by E's.  BTW...Told you I'd find a place for that mammoth violet.

Everyone wants to be part of a team: The value of crowdsourcing (Apologies for a link-laden blog post)

Success principles are everywhere.

I joined Kickstarter today so I could back (ok, so I could get one of) these nifty 3Doodlers -- it's a cross between a 3D printer and a pen.  Today is its first day on Kickstarter too. It's almost 400% funded already. Everyone wants to be part of something big.*

*Doesn't hurt that I don't know anyone who doesn't want a 3D printer, but similarly I don't know anyone who has actually shelled out for one. Isn't this COOL?

I also read recently about the success of Y Combinator as opposed to a typical venture capital being that Y Combinator alumni help support new launches. As with so many things, it's the family you build.

Even in laying fiber optic cable to create super high speed internet across a community, crowdsourcing comes into play. In rural Lancashire England , computers are getting 500Mbps once they dug up their own trenches across their own land and laid down fibre**.

**Yes, I can spell. In the opening statement, I was writing for an American audience. By the end of the paragraph, I was explaining what the Brits did. Brits don't lay fiber, they lay fibre. They don't colour like Americans color, either. But that's not a matter of crossing the pond. I believe Canadians also colour in their neighbourhoods.

In short, we're living in a world that is getting smaller all the time and we need to depend on each other all the more. So why not have fun with it? Isolation kills. Dreams grow when they're shared and encouraged. I leave you with a remarkable documentary on THON, which I never heard of before moving to Central PA, and which is so much bigger than I realized. It's run entirely by Penn State students to support families of kids with cancer, both covering medical expenses that go beyond what insurance covers, and also to provide music therapy and activities and research monies to the Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital. Organizations can also adopt a particular family to really build relationships throughout the year, not just at the hallmark dance marathon which just a few weeks ago raised $12M+, for a cumulative total since 1978 of $100M, "for the kids". Why We Dance .

Monday, February 18, 2013

Q: Why did the TSA take the crochet hook from the innocuous Asian with a yarn bag?

A: They were afraid she was going to crochet an afghan.

It's an old joke and a bad one.  And as far as I know, the TSA has never come down on knitting needles nor crochet hooks, and although the tiny foldable scissors are permitted on planes, regular scissors are not.  Nor cuticle scissors, for all the good that would do a potential terrorist.*

*We, which is to say, Big Frog, once had a knife confiscated.  It was a butter knife with a little bit of serration at the tip, but too much serration to let it pass.  If we weren't the "just a carry-on" types we could've put it in our checked luggage.  And why did he have a butter knife in his carry-on bag, you might ask?  We'd gone that day to a restaurant named for him.  And when you have a name as unusual as Big Frog's, personalized gear is rare.  There may be notepads and flashlights and ballpoints made up with four different spellings of Makayla-Mckayla-Mykeila-Michaela, that just doesn't happen when you're named for a bluegrass banjo player.  But there is an entire restaurant chain in western Canada whose mascot is the albino rhino and which shares a name with Big Frog.  We petitioned for "anything with his name on it" and got flatware, a glass, sugar packets, and even a business card of the manager, whose first name is the same as Big Frog's dad's.  TSA permitted everything else to pass in the carryon, including the fork, which I think might be pointy-er and more potentially lethal than a butter knife.

But I just wanted to compile not where all my crochet projects have gone, because I think that may be impossible, but at least where all my afghans are and approximately when they were created.

Country Star: Started summer 1997.  All 3-row granny squares.  Notable because I didn't leave long enough tails when changing colors and as I've used it I've had to go back and recreate a lot of my joins.  It was the first big project I made, and its creation spanned a plane trip to California, oral surgery under novacain in which the surgeon and dental assistant were amazed that I could crochet without looking at all (For granny squares it's easy because you only put stitches in holes, not into other stitches.  Also because I've been making them since I was 8, when I first picked up a hook as an after-school course with Mrs Dobbins at Thunder Hill.)  Completed fall 1997, at Messiah College.  Queen-sized, the only larger-than-a-throw afghan I've made.  Currently in year-round use on our bed.

Hexagons: Started fall 1997.  Pattern from Scraps and Black.  Finished New Year's Eve 1997 at Navs/Rejoice lock-in.  Might have taken considerably longer except that heat rises.  Because all the heat in the gymnatorium was *not* at ground level, so I was piecing furiously to generate warmth by movement and to create another layer to cover myself.  Currently a throw in our living room.

Shells (not pictured): Started winter 1998.  Pattern from Scraps and Black.  Finished when C, one of our office kids, was <2yo, so approximately 2009?  Only afghan I've made where it just keeps growing until it's finished.  Construction included blind crocheting during performance of summer theater in HoCo -- possibly Joseph, or perhaps Will Rogers Follies.  Gave to C; she used it in the car for naps in the carseat.  Approx 40"x50"?

Flowers: Purple on Purple.  Started when niece E was about 2?  Close enough to announcement of niece K that I knew I would have to make another for her too.  Construction included SuperBowl at the Vagabonds' home the year everyone needed 3D glasses for some of the ads and for Chuck vs the Third Dimension.  Completed piecing in the snowstorm of Feb 2010; edging took longer.  Currently on niece's bed, although due to "favorite color" misunderstandings on auntie's part, I believe the girls have since swapped afghans.  Twin bed size.

Flowers: Pink-White-Claret.  Started approximately when niece K was born.  Pattern is bicolor.  I liked all three colors and didn't want to choose between them.  Made for problems when I was piecing, because on E's I didn't have to think, but on K's I had to be creative.  And second-guess myself unendingly.  Very pleased with the outcome; would do it again.  Gave to K; I believe E has it now.  See above.  Twin bed size.

Flowers (not pictured): Baby blanket for J, one of our office kids.  Vareigated purple and white. 4 squares x 4 squares

Flowers (not pictured): Lovies for J, the 2nd small Vagabond, who was interested when I was crocheting during Superbowl at her house.  Made 9 squares, gave her the option of 3x3 but she opted for 2 2x2 plus a doll blanket.

Hexagons: Blues and grays.  Gave to godkid M.  2010.  Creation included Texas double-dose, mini-reunions on both sides of the family.  Niece A (from Edminton AB but in Austin TX) mimicked and made two hexagons into purse.  Niece K (of Houston TX), chose layout pattern.

Flowers: Pinks. (not pictured) Gave to godkid D.  2010.

Stained Glass Window: Gave to Lorrie.  2010.

Arrows (not pictured): Pattern from Scraps & Black.  Started 2010.  First I've done with no planned order to the striping nor intentional purchase of colors for this piece.  In other words, actually scraps.  Very freeing to just choose the next line or two without thinking how this fits into the whole.  No black in the whole afghan -- have so many dark colors from past projects, made intentional decision to use white every single place pattern says to use black.  WIP - have made eight "scarves", need to edge each, assemble together, and edge the whole.

(Not my own creation:
Red drop SC: gift from Grandma Shover, mom's best friend's grandma.  An amazing individual who lived independently up to her death at 99yo.  She had breast cancer in her 60s and the doctors didn't do anything because, after all, she was in her 60s.  Ten years later they decided they maybe should take the breast out after all.  I remember building chair tents with this one when I was in grade school.)

Sunday, February 17, 2013

30. An exercise in parentheticals And maybe a story at the end.

30. No, not me.  This Wednesday, my little brother* Murg**, unbelievably, is turning "the big 3-0"***.

*He hasn't been shorter than me approximately since he started to walk.  At which time I was four and he was one.  I was a really short kid.

** Why do I call him that?  I don't remember the story  behind that at all, because I simply don't remember not calling him Murg.  Affectionately, of course.  And not because of any speech impediment, either.

*** Not that 30 is so very old.  In fact, I never get to angst about turning a certain age because I have to help Big Frog through those numbers years in advance of my hitting them, so they've lost their impact by the time it gets to me.  He, in turn, is waiting to turn 41**** because that means his sister will be 50. 

**** This June.

Anyways, there's not much of an age gap between us, so I don't remember much of the leadup to Murg's arrival, or his actual birth-and-homecoming.  What impacted three-year-old-me was that my PorPor (mom's mom) and aunt (mom's only sister) came to visit. 

I have a huge extended family, as my mom was number two of five and my dad was three of six.  There are a dozen first cousins on each side, and the tree keeps expanding with cousins-in-law and nieces and nephews*****.  But my immediate family, just  the three-turned-four of us, Mom, Dad, me, and Murg, were the only branch in Maryland.  In fact, it seemed to me growing up that every vacation we ever took was for a family reunion... because whether we drove north to Detroit or flew west to SanFran, all it took for nearly everyone to be together was for us to show up.

***** By genealogical reckoning, the classification is first cousins, once removed.  But for purposes of respect and relationship, if there's a generational age gap, it's "auntie".  My godkids call me auntie, too.  It's the family you build.  Similarly, I still call some of my parent's longtime friends auntie and uncle, except for the one who, once I was grown, told me that she didn't have sibs and her (ex-)husband didn't have sibs, and my brother and I were the only people in the entire world to call her auntie, and while she put up with it for my mom's sake when we were little, now that we were all adults, could I please just call her by her given name. 

I'm pretty sure this was the only time PorPor ever visited us in Maryland.  She wasn't much of a traveler******, and most of her kids and grands were right around her anyways.  Except for us. 

****** You know, aside from traveling alone, ostensibly by steamship, from Guangdong, China to Detroit to join her husband in the Beautiful Country (America), and she had to marry him again in the States because even though they were properly married in China, the paper identities under which they'd immigrated weren't married.  Perhaps it's better to say she'd about used up her quota of lifetime miles?

I remember going to the Inner Harbor with her and we all came home with marionettes.  Don't remember what mine was, but my aunt got a unicorn. 

I remember before she came, I had a "rice table" -- not a sandbox out back or pots and pans in the kitchen that I banged on, but a Tupperware sheetcake box half full of rice, and measuring cups and spoons and forks to dig around with.  A little zen garden, if you will.  But mom explained before she pieced everything back to their proper places in the kitchen that Chinese culture (meaning PorPor) valued food too much to see it as a plaything.  The rice table never came back after PorPor and my aunt flew home.  Maybe it was just a convenient reason?

I remember she brought Haw Flakes.  Are they still around?  I'm delighted to have a good asian grocery in Harrisburg, but Haw Flakes are not exactly something I look for.  If you're wondering what they are, mom found an english ingredients list on a multipack once... just one ingredient: haw.  What is haw?  I have no idea.  But Haw Flakes were pinkish, about the color of a pencil eraser.  Flat wafers in rolls the size of half a roll of lifesavers.  They were mostly a texture food to me; they didn't have much to offer taste-wise.  Only place we ever got them were PorPor's (or YenYen's, my dad's mom's) care packages. 

Speaking of grandparental care packages, I remember the herbal liniment they brewed up (Really, brewed is the right word.) and packaged into baby food jars.  If you opened up that jar, the smell would hit you in the face like a walloping punch, but boy did the liniment ever work.  My frequent sprained ankles were dosed up and healed right up... possibly to get away from the smell?  My GungGung (mom's dad) used to say that ithe stuff would get a railroad spike out of a board.  Don't know if that's fact or hyperbole, but I can tell you without a bit of exaggeration that we had a jar of liniment that went unused for awhile (healthy is good!) and the liniment ate through the metal jar lid.  Bubbled its way right through.  And we put that on our skin.  Eastern medicine.  Be careful what you ask for, but it works.

Well, happy birthday, Murg.  I don't remember your arrival but I can't deny you're here.  Here's to your next 30 and beyond.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Thinking happy Spring-ish thoughts

By crocheting pansies.  Big ones.  Usually I would use cotton crochet thread for them, but I only have white at the moment.  So yarn it is, and this one is the size of my hand. It'll be a nice ornament for something.  Pattern at Crochet Flowers.

Saturday, February 9, 2013


See how much I love you, Optimista?

This is why I want to be an All-Star. 
Vicki, and not a few others, say they enjoy listening to me emote over watching this piece.  I get really into it.  You have been warned. 

How cool is it that I get to LEARN it now? 

Gung Hay Fat Choy!

I'll tell you one thing I'm not doing in honor of Chinese New Year, and that's create a video entirely in Mandarin, or possibly Cantonese, showing photos of how I was steeped in Chinese culture and dance from a very young age and even singing It's a Small World in Mandarin.  Or possibly Cantonese.  Or Taiwanese?  I'll leave to that to Julia Ling (Anna Wu on Chuck): "ABC" take on Chinese New Year Traditions" on YouTube.

Needless to say, my ABC (American Born Chinese) upbringing was much more on the American side than the Chinese side, particularly compared to Julia Ling.  But we always had 1) long noodles for longevity, and usually they were the traditional cellophane noodles.  And we ate them with a slurp, all the way to the end so as not to break off our lifespan.  Except there was the one year when whatever packet of cellophane noodles we got must have been the kind you get in spring rolls; I have never seen shorter noodles except for perhaps Spaghetti-o's.  But my family survived that year, so I'll take it with a grain of salt, much like 2) chicken for prosperity.  When my parents got married, my YenYen, my dad's mom, told my mom that it's always best if you raise the chicken from an egg and nurture and care for it, then kill and pluck and prepare and eat it for New Year's.  "But," she continued, "in a pinch, a bucket of KFC will do."  I come from a very pragmatic family.  As far as 3) oranges for fertility, well, Earl and I celebrated our 12th anniversary last week and we had our annual (as-yet, still two-syllable) discussion.  And, inedible but what a great tradition for the kids, 4) red paper envelopes of lucky money.  (Thanks, mom!  Got your card the other day!)

So have a very happy Chinese New Year and may you be long-lived, prosperous, and have a bountiful harvest in the Year of the Snake.  Gung Hay Fat Choy!

P.S. According to Wiki, Julia Ling is exactly six days older than Murg. I wonder if she's single?

Friday, February 8, 2013

Mom's birthday

Some photos of mom through the years, and some of her 70th birthday celebration with family and friends from church, community, PTA, piano, and local and regional politics.  www.tinyurl.com/nancy70

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Country music pops up in the oddest places

Life quotes:
"I'm going for the mandoline!"

Big Frog and I were watching a back episode of Chopped this evening. One of the competitors went for the mandoline to thin-slice her mortadella. And Big Frog starting singing a plinky little tune. He went for the mandolin.

Jayne! The frog they call Jayne!

Round Frog modeling my latest quick project, a crocheted Jayne hat for Big Frog.
Pattern available at Crochet Cable Hat

And, for your viewing pleasure, here's Chuck's Adam Baldwin (I know, Firefly was first. But Chuck was the first show I got active in following) singing about
"the man they call ... me"

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Hard work and perserverance bring reward

When I was in first grade, I was a Reading Rainbow junkie. I've always been a reader. And when LeVar Burton said that the moral of the tortoise and the hare fable was not the classic "Slow and steady wins the race" but "Hard work and perserverance bring reward", he was *right*. It was official. It was on TV, after all!

Some weeks later, the same Aesop's fable showed up in music class with Miss Margie. And when she asked for the moral of the story, I gave her Levar's moral. And as petite as I am now, I was trop petite when I was six.  Small kid, big vocabulary.

Well, Optimista, your persistance in prodding has yielded a blog. Let's see where things go from here.