Monday, December 22, 2008

One more wreath

OK, I know, you're all sick of advent wreaths, but I promised to post a picture of Ruth's fabulous wreath when I got one, so here it is (her second wreath isn't quite done yet).

Saturday, December 20, 2008

O Christmas Tree

We bundled everyone up, drove out to the tree farm, grabbed a big saw, and headed out towards the fields of trees to conquer and drag home the Christmas of our dreams. But, we only got as far as the gate before Go-go cried, "I'm so cold! I don't want a Christmas tree! I'm too cold!" We decided that the pre-cut trees in the barn would be more than good enough.

Then it was time to decorate the tree (and ourselves) and play in pajamas.

Friday, December 19, 2008

More advent calendar wreath

A few people have asked for more specifics on the watchmaker tin advent wreaths. I'm a little hesitant to provide instructions because that's not the kind of crafter I am (I wouldn't say I'm a crafter at all). The fun for me is making it up as I go along. If I saw the list of everything I did, I would have said, "That takes way too long and is way too Martha Stewart - I'll just go buy something at Target." But, I know that there are all sorts ways to craft - so I'll let y'all know what Ruth and I did and you can take it from there.

First are the watchmaker tins. We bought them from a wholesale supplier (Darice), but you can get the 2-inch size at Michael's or JoAnne's (in the wedding department), or you can get a variety of sizes online here. They just have pop off lids, so they're easy for kids to open (maybe too easy). A variety of sizes looks nice. We used 2-inch and 1 1/2 inch tins (we ordered some 3-inch tins as well, but they were out of stock). It's hard to find candy that can fit in the 1 1/2 inch tins, so we actually skipped the candy part at my house and just did Christmas activities.

The base is a flat wreath form we found at Michael's and then spray painted. You could also use a standard foam wreath form wrapped in ribbon, but it would be a very different look and the tins would all face slightly different directions (which could be a good thing).

Next, you just play with your tins and doo-dads until you have a look you like. Then hot-glue everything in place. For a sturdier wreath that will last season after season, you could also screw the tins down to the wreath form (be sure to use tiny screws). Inside the lids, we used scrapbook paper stamped with the numbers. I think it might look better with numbers cut out of contrasting papers. One problem I had was adhering the paper to the lids. I used spray adhesive, but it left a residue that made the lids look sticky and yucky. You could tape the paper into the lids or use a tiny bit of glue just around the inside rim.

On the red and green wreath, the star doo-dad is an ornament we found at Joanne's and spray painted silver. The curly-cues are just some decorations we found at Walmart and bent around until the look was right. I fell in love with the white berry sprays at Michael's and then chose ribbon that looked good with it for the silver/blue wreath. Just look for Christmas stuff that makes you happy and go from there. The fun is in the designing and creating.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Advent Calendar Wreaths

We have been loving December and our Christmas Advent activities. Go-go can't wait for Daddy to get home so that he can go "open the paper". I promised I would post pictures and I am finally making good on my word. Ruth and I were inspired by the wonderful tins on this wreath, but wanted to put our own spin on it. We each made two wreaths (I will try to get pictures of Ruth's too - they are incredibly cute [update - here's a picture of one of Ruth's wreaths]). Here are mine (we're currently using the red and green one):

(more info on how we made the wreaths here)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Lucie's wedding

Erik's sister, Lucie, got married the week before Thanksgiving, so we got to spend the holiday in California (mmm, warm California). The wedding was beautiful, Dan is a great guy, and we had a fabulous time.

Mui-mui looked gorgeous in a dress that Grandma Virginia made for her:

And Go-go was so handsome in his fancy clothes:

Of course, sliding in the mud at the reception can improve even the fanciest of suits:

Despite the mud and mess, we had a great time doing the wedding thing and visiting with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.

Later in the week, we went to the Exploratorium in San Francisco with Aunt Aimee and cousin Brett:

And Thanksgiving dinner was delicious! (but I don't have any pictures - you'll just have to imagine it)

While I'm posting cute pictures of my kids, here are two more taken after we got back home:

Monday, December 8, 2008

Mui-mui walks and Go-go Snaps

Friday night, Mui-mui suddenly decided to stand up and walk. She just kept getting up, falling down, and starting over again. She tried again at church on Sunday, but hasn't been interested today. In this clip, Go-go is following her around with the i-phone trying to take her picture.

Speaking of Go-go taking pictures, he has been obsessed with the camera lately. Luckily, digital photos are cheap and easy to delete. Here's a tour around our house through the eyes of a 3 year-old.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Simon says.....

.....leave a comment. Bonus points if you are first or can manage to engage a commenter (whom you've never met) in a back and forth exchange.

Monday, December 1, 2008


So, it's December 1st and it's the perfect time to count down to Christmas. You all would be absolutely amazed at the advent calendar wreaths that Ruth and I made (I promise to post some pictures soon), and last night Erik and I planned Christmas activities for the month. A lot of these are things we'd probably do anyway, but this gives us a schedule and something to make it seem like a Christmas adventure. This is the first year that Go-go really has any notion of time and looking forward to events, so we're really excited to make it fun. And I think Mui-mui will enjoy it too, even if she'll have no idea what's going on. It's also the first time in almost a decade that we'll be home for Christmas - now's the time for us to establish our own holiday traditions.

So, here's what you'll find on little slips of paper along with the chocolate in each days ornament:

Make Paper snowflakes
Dance to Christmas music
Watch Rudolph the Red-nosed reindeer
Make Christmas cards for friends and family
Feed the missionaries
Take family pictures
Watch the Prophet's Christmas message at the church
Make a paper chain for the tree
Bake cookies
Drink hot chocolate
Watch the Grinch
Drive through Christmas lights
Go to the Christmas Tree farm and go to the ward Christmas party
Decorate the Christmas tree
Buy a toy for 'toys for tots'
Wrap presents
Drink Eggnog
Family game night
Make a list of 10 things we're thankful for
Go to the Niagara Falls Christmas Displays
Read the Christmas story from the Book of Mormon
Sing Christmas carols
Bake cookies for neighbors
Read the Christmas story from the Bible and do a Nativity Pageant

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Hooray for Democracy!

I was a little apprehensive taking Mui-mui to the polls yesterday. She had been running a little fever and was even clingier than usual. And, of course, the only time I could go was right at her usual naptime. All of that, combined with the news footage of people across the country waiting in lines for hours and hours, made me a little bit worried. But, a citizen must soldier on; so I dilligently drove to the fire station, parked in the lot, got Mui-mui and her paraphanalia out, and was kindly chastisied by a burly fireman for parking in the firefighters-only lot. He finally told me to just go on in because the lot didn't have any signs saying it was for firemen only and because my baby was too cute to make me strap her back in her carseat just to drive 100 feet to the official voter parking (so true).

My fears were confirmed when I walked into the building and saw the hall packed with people in a long snaking line. I was trying to look nonchalant and competent as I furtively scanned the room for the end of the line, but I could tell I had failed when one of the fabulous tiny-grandma-poll-workers asked me if I needed help. Busted! Yep, I had no idea which district I lived in or where I was supposed to go. She looked up my address and pointed me to a table in the corner. Hooray! There were only 3 people in front of me at the district 103 table! Another tiny-grandma-poll-worker (I think there must be a maximum height requirement to be a poll worker in this district) insisted on holding Mui-mui while I went in to the little booth, despite my warnings about her state of mind. A few minutes of screaming later, and we were all done. I collected Mui-mui and we waved goodbye to all of the poor people in line for district 51 (as happy as I am to see that their whole neighborhood turned out to vote, I am so glad I don't live there - wherever there is).

It just felt so good to participate in the process. As much as I get frustrated by politics, it's how we get things done. I can't figure out a better way to pool our collective voices and make things happen. Of course, it doesn't hurt that my choice for president was the winner. I am truly excited about Obama and about a new direction. I see a real possibility for a change in the tone of the country - more hopeful, humble, compassionate, and united. I just love a person that really, really knows the constitution and can discuss it in a thoughtful, nuanced way. But, it wasn't just being on the winning side this time that made voting so much fun. Only one of the other candidates I voted for won, and that didn't diminish my glee (too much). I think it helped that I wasn't afraid of a McCain presidency (OK, I was a little bit afraid of a Palin presidency, but I would have been OK if McCain had won). Voting yesterday felt like being part of a real, engaged community. People at the polls were talking about the turnout, the candidates, the initiatives, their lives. Everyone I heard was respectful of other views and excited to be there, regardless of how they were about to vote. Plus, noone looked at my screaming baby with anything other than complete adoration - God Bless America!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Brief Overview of My Life

So, judging by some of the commentary being posted (thanks friends!), I have been doing a very bad job of keeping people informed about our whereabouts. I hereby post this mini-timeline to help anyone who is just discovering or rediscovering us:

1995-1996 - I serve as a missionary in Hong Kong. I love Hong Kong - big cities make me happy, Chinese (people food, language, art, etc.) makes me happy. Overall, a tough, but happy time.

1997-I marry the fabulous Erik and we move to China to teach English.

1998 - back to the States (Falls Church, VA to be specific). Erik gets an MA in Linguistics at Georgetown, Markie gets a BA in Psychology at George Mason.

2000-2008 -we move to Pittsburgh (hooray for Pittsburgh!). I get an MS in Social Psychology at University of Pittsburgh. I teach classes at Carnegie Mellon (CMU) and at Pitt. My friend Ruth and I also get more serious about our Quiet Book Business ( Erik gets his degree in computational linguistics at CMU.

August, 2005 - Go-go (Cantonese for 'big brother') is born. Such a sweet, mellow boy.

October, 2007 - Mui-mui (Cantonese for 'little sister') is born. Much more dramatic than her brother, but just as sweet. Especially when she finally decided that playing is more fun than screaming.

May, 2008 - Erik gets his dream job in Chinese computational linguistics - who knew that it would be in a suberb of Buffalo, NY!? We had two weeks to find a place to live, clean out eight years of junk from our tiny Pittsburgh townhouse, pack up, and get ourselves here. Truly, an excersise in humility. My wonderful friends came and sorted, swept, cleaned, and scrubbed (thanks Valerie, Zoe, and Rahel! And extra-big special thanks to Christine!). And they did it all without judging me or my mess - a super-human feat of true charity. Then, the profesional packers and movers boxed everything up, put it in the truck, drove it up here, and unloaded it - I don't think I can ever go back to an Elder's Quorum move (I don't think they'll mind).

Now - I'm teaching two sections of Social Psychology at Daemen College. It helps relieve the suburban mailaise I keep feeling. I really hate driving everywhere, I miss the city, I miss my friends, I hate owning two cars, etc., etc., etc. But, I'm getting used to it, I'm meeting new people, making new friends, developing firmer opinions about what neighborhoods will be good for us when we buy a house and which we must avoid at all costs, and learning to appreciate and even enjoy my new life. Teaching makes sure that I get dressed up and interact with adults at least twice a week and reminds me that I really do have a brain. It's been a very good thing for me. Go-go goes to preschool all day on T/Th and Mui-mui stays with a woman in the ward on T/Th afternoons. Go-go loves school and I think the structure has been really good for him. Mui-mui likes it at Tara's house and likes to play with (OK, near) Tara's 10-month old daughter. She has more separation issues and it took her a few weeks to stop crying when I left, but now she wants to go right for the toys (or for the lunch). Erik still loves his job. Sometimes he'll come home shaking his head with disbelief that they actually want to pay him for doing what he loves.

So, that's my life in a nutshell. Do you feel all caught up? Good. Now, I'll just proceed from here in future posts. This is Markie, signing off from Williamsville, NY.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Hooray for the Pumpkin Farm!


So, Go-go's birthday was over two months ago, but I didn't post any pictures because I didn't have a blog then. On the other hand, Mui-mui's birthday was just last week, and I do have a blog now. Since it would be unfair to only post cupcake photos of one of my cuties, you get a two-for-one photo extravaganza. Enjoy! (note that I haven't yet figured out how to turn the picture vertically).

Friday, October 24, 2008


So, I've noticed that every single post I've written begins with the word 'So.' Now i have to figure out whether I should make that my signature intro or make a concerted effort to avoid it. Feel free to vote.

Welcome to my blah, blah, blog

So, I have finally given in to the peer pressure and started a blog (thanks Janelle - you finally got to me!). Who knows how often I will post, but I'll give it a shot. I will attempt to at least put up a picture or two every week. Here's to happy blogging!

Bare Walls

So, two months ago I came home from my new ward's R.S. book group and told Erik that I would be hosting on the 4th Thursday in October. I looked around at the bare walled and toy-strewn living room and mentioned that I'd like to hang up some of our art and pictures before then. "I know what we'll be doing on the 4th Wednesday of October, don't I?" was the reply. I protested that I was certain that we could pull it together before then; that I did not need an external deadline to do what would be best for my own soul and my own home.

But, really, who was I kidding?!? Now, on this, the 4th Friday of October, I am looking around my newly decorated home and I am loving it. The furniture has been rearranged, we got a new entertainment center, our pictures and scrolls are up, and it feels like home. And it only took us five months! Of course, my back is killing me from moving the big (my father believes that if it's worth making, it's worth making out of heavy, solid oak) bookcase, but I think it's worth it. Everyone in the book group seemed fooled by my lovely and clean home and a grand time was had by all.

Now I just have to convince them that REAL book groups read tomes that stir up controversy or passion and that everyone leaving at 10:00pm is just wimpy, but I'll have to take it one step at a time.