Friday, February 26, 2010

Weekend Pics

Here are some pictures of this past weekend.

Our night at the Crowe Museum
E, showing off his glow necklace and lantern

Glow Stick fighting with Dad..."come on Dad, make your move.."

J decorating lanterns

R, looking at his lantern to find that perfect spot to make his masterpiece.

Glow in the Dark Dragon Dance

"Feeding" the dragon.

Free Pretzel Day at Auntie Anne's.

More wedding dress shopping

I love the detailing

Mr. N and I before our night out at the Professor's house.

Last, but not least, A and his fettish for wearing any shoe in the house that is bigger than his own. Here he is with his Auntie's latest fashion.I have to chuckle every time I see this pic. Isn't he just super cute?


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Free 8x10 photo, photobook, and toddler kit

Free 8x10 photo from Walgreens if picked up at the store. Pay 99 cents if you want it sent to your home. Use promotional code FREEPHOTO for free pic or if you wish to go into the store, print this coupon and take it with you. Coupon valid for today only.

ArtsCow is offering a free photo book using their promotional code.

Sign up for your free BeechNut toddler kit. I did this with with all my kiddos.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

New Home for Daisy

We went to a pediatric allergist this past Friday and discovered that R's asthma attack came from our new dog. Looking back at his first asthma attack, we realized he was also exposed to a dog a few days prior to that asthma attack as well, confirming the doctor's diagnosis.
We adopted Daisy exactly one month ago today, but because of R's breathing difficulties, we decided we needed to find her a new home. The kids all wanted to keep her, but after much convincing, they decided that R's health was more important. Instead, I agreed to get them a hairless pet, like fish. They seemed to be happy about that.

I posted an ad in craigslist and within minutes I had half a dozen people agree to take her. I came home early yesterday so that my kids could spend the last few hours with Daisy. I explained to my kids that Daisy may have a new home today so they prepared themselves for that. While meeting with her potential family, I started to get teary eyed. The first family that stopped by decided they would make her their own. They had 2 kids which Daisy will love and their own dog had just past away. I feel as though she is in good hands. Although, the instant she left the door, there was something that just wasn't the same. Not hearing her tags make the clinky sounds as she pranced around the house, made the house abnormally quiet.

I woke up at 4 as I do every morning ready to let her outside, but obviously she wasn't there. I never considered myself a dog person, but Daisy made me into one. I am glad the only dog we have had was such a sweet one and she will be dearly missed.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Free sandwich at Jack in the Box

Today only, buy a large drink from Jack in the Box and receive one of two sandwiches for free. You can choose between the Grilled Turkey, Bacon & Cheddar with roasted turkey, cheddar cheese and bacon, and the Grilled Deli Trio, with salami, sliced ham, roasted turkey, provolone cheese and pickles. Both served on grilled artisan bread. One sandwich per person though. So choose wisely.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Dinner with the Dean

Last night, my husband and I got all dressed up to attend a dinner party. We were there to meet the Viet Nam law school deans. The accomplishments from everyone at dinner was truly phenomenal to the point where I felt a little out of place at times. Although, I hold a degree in Biochemistry and Computer Science, and I have done AIDS and breast cancer research in the past. It was no where near the caliber of education and accomplishments that came from everyone else.

I grew up in the states so I don't know any other type of educational system other than the U.S. I oftentimes would ask my father what it was like to grow up in Viet Nam. The stories he would tell were quite interesting and kept me intrigued. Talking to the Dean, I discovered that although some things have changed in the past 50 years, there are things that remain the same as when my father grew up there.

In the U.S. when asked which profession you would most likely want to choose for your child, most would say either a lawyer or doctor. They are considered prestigious professions. That is not the case in Viet Nam. Being a lawyer in Viet Nam is not considered prestigious at all. Most lawyers in Viet Nam are lawyers simply because their test scores were not high enough. In the U.S. we have public education for the first 13 years. Those that wish to go to college will have to pay if no scholarships are available. Private schools such as Harvard, Yale, and MIT are considered the best schools in the country.

This is completely the opposite in Viet Nam. Public education comes after high school. Upon graduation from high school, each student will take a standardized exam and those that have the highest scores will get to be the doctors or engineers (which is considered more prestigious than being an attorney) and will get to attend the public university for little to nothing. The public university is considered to be far more superior to any private institution. To be able to attend a public university would mean that you are truly intelligent. You are the best of the best. Those that don't make the grade, will have to pay to go to a non-regulated inferior private university.

Back in the day, many women would marry without any higher education. Nowadays, according to the dean, it is nearly impossible to find a husband willing to marry you if you are not educated. Two-thirds of law schools are made up of women in Viet Nam. That is completely different in the U.S.

Conversations were a mixture of the Vietnamese and English language. It was hilarious to listen to all these Americanized Vietnamese. Whenever we stumbled upon how to say something in Vietnamese, an English word or sentence would some-how surface. It would always be followed be a huge chuckle. We will all have to brush up on our Vietnamese. It was a great thing that the deans spoke impeccable English.

As I listen to the deans speak about how the educational system differs between our two countries, I am completely fascinated. As a mother of four, I am used to conversations about homework, about other kids, basketball practice, Veggie Tales, etc. I am used to catching spit up in my hands during dinner and food being thrown on the floor. That's my life. Going to dinner with Harvard and Stanford graduates, with MIT, Cornell and SMU professors, not to mention the deans of the law school in Viet Nam was completely refreshing and a nice change of pace.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Camera Lens Dilemma

I miss my camera lens. It broke over our wintry weekend and life hasn't been the same. Here is my camera
I got it for Christmas a few years ago. It replaced my Olympus C-50 Point and Shoot camera that I also love.My son, E has inherited that camera. The 5 megapixel camera is a huge upgrade to his 1.5 megapixel Kid Tough camera I bought him when he was 3. The camera is still very popular with my other kids so money is not wasted. It has definitely been thrown around, dropped, splashed and still keeps on going.
That is not the case with my lens. Here it is:
This 18-55mm lens is a great lens that I simply can't live without. I do have the 55-200mm lens for zooming, but it isn't so practical for every day pictures. Having to stand many feet back to take a snapshot of my kiddos is difficult, especially when my kids hate standing still.
So, here is my dilemma. I could re-buy my 18-55mm lens or I could upgrade. I could replace my lens new for about $120. I did a little research and I also like this 35mm lens because it shoots in lower lighting which is great for indoor shots. However, it doesn't zoom. It sells new for about $200 if you can find it. These lenses have definitely kept its value and sells for relatively the same price on ebay for a used one.
I could go the complete opposite and upgrade my lens to a super duper deluxe, 18-200mm lens. This beauty is over $1000, but I can probably purchase it for around $650-700 on ebay. That is expensive, BUT if I buy this lens, I would be able to sell my 55-200mm lens for roughly $200 so I would only be spending $450-500.
It would be great to not have to switch back and forth between my lenses and to carry this one and only lens. The only bad thing I would say about this lens is that since it is bigger than my other lens, therefore, it is heavier. I generally like a lighter camera since I am already lugging around the diaper bag. I did get an offer on craigslist when I posted a "Want To Buy" posting for the lenses. I could get the 35mm lens for $160 OR I could get the 18-55mm AND this flash for $160.
This is the flash that I want and was looking to get. Both are pretty good offers. I am just not sold on which purchase to make. Which lens would you buy?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Card Game Coupons is offering several game coupons that can reduce the price of the following card games. These games make excellent Easter Basket Stuffers. Coupons are found here. Select your coupons and print.

Walmart Price: $5.24 - $4.00 coupon
Final Price: $1.24

Target/Walmart Price: $5.24 - $4.00 coupon
Final Price: $1.24

Target/Walmart Price: $5.24 - $4.00 coupon
Final Price: $1.24
Target/Walmart Price: $5.24 - $5.00 coupon
Final Price: $0.24

The 4 card games come out to $20.96 without coupons. With the coupons it brings the final price to only $4.06. Bring your own reusable bag to Target and save an additional 5 cents. Go Green for the environment and your pocketbook!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Happy New Year!

Yesterday was the Lunar New Year's, also known as the Chinese New Year. Although, we are Vietnamese, we do celebrate this holiday. Every year, we watch fireworks and lion dances.The Chinese Lion Dance is performed to chase away bad luck and bring good luck and prosperity. It is performed during the Chinese New Year and for special occasions such as weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, parties, parades, for a grand opening of a business, or to welcome special guests. It may also be seen during the Autumn Moon Festival in the fall. To feed the lion money is to bring good luck.
Here is a picture of E feeding the lion some money. It is said that the lion will give you back ten times the luck. This picture is a few years old. E was only 3 years old at the time, but he certainly had no fear going up to the lion. I don't have any pictures of our trip yesterday as my camera lens broke over the weekend!

When giving money, it is customary to place money into red paper envelopes. Here are some of the many varieties of money bags. Banks around here usually hand them out upon request.
Traditionally, red envelopes of money, what we call as lì xì (lee see), are passed out during the Chinese New Year's celebration, from married couples or the elderly to unmarried juniors. It is also common for adults or young couples to give red packets to children. Children would wish elders prosperity, health, and luck, in return.

In addition to red envelopes, which are usually given from elder to younger, small gifts (usually of food or sweets) are also exchanged between friends or relatives (of different households) during Chinese New Year. Gifts are usually brought when visiting friends or relatives at their homes. Common gifts include fruits typically oranges, cakes, biscuits, chocolates, candies, or some other small gift.

Some of the foods we munched on as we watched the lion dance were bánh tieu and bánh cam.
Bánh tieu is a Vietnamese Doughnut. It is hollow inside and commonly eaten with ice cream. The temperatures were in the low 30's yesterday with some wind so ice cream was out of the question.
Bánh cam or also known as bánh rán is a deep fried glutinous rice ball. Its outer shell is made from glutinous rice flour, and covered all over with white sesame seeds. Its feilling is made from sweetened mung bean paste. Traditionally, the filling should be separated from the shell so that if one shakes the bánh cam, one can feel the filling rattle against the inside of the shell. On a cold winter day, it was nice to have these warm, just made pastries to munch on.

Before the lion dance even proceeds, there are usually firecrackers lit.
Bamboo stems filled with gunpowder that were burnt to create small explosions were once used in ancient China to drive away evil spirits. Today, this method has eventually evolved into the use of firecrackers during the festive season. Firecrackers are usually strung on a long fused string so it can be hung down. Each firecracker is rolled up in red papers, as red is auspicious, with gunpowder in its core. Once ignited, the firecracker lets out a loud popping noise and, as they are usually strung together by the hundreds, the firecrackers are known for their deafening explosions that are thought to scare away evil spirits. The burning of firecrackers also signifies a joyful time of year and has become an integral aspect of Chinese New Year celebrations.

Growing up, I am so grateful that my parents always celebrated these traditions. I have many fond memories of celebrating the new year that I hope to create more memories with my children. We plan on attending our first ever glow in the dark lion dance this weekend.
The picture of the dragon at night looks phenomenal and I think my kids will have a blast. I am excited. I just hope the temperatures are a little warmer. Hopefully, I will have a new camera lens so that I can capture this experience.

It is the year of the Tiger and I want to wish everyone a wonderful, prosperous, and very lucky New Year!

Thanks to wikipedia for all their information they provided.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Valentine's Chair Backers

Tomorrow is Valentine's day and ever since I saw Pottery Barn's Valentines Chair Backers for sale two years ago. I have wanted them. They have always been sold out, this year, being no exception. I did find some on ebay, but the prices were a little outrageous for me. I would have to spend over $150 for 4 chair backers and that would not include the personalization. By looking closely at the posted pictures, I decided that I would create my own.

Once again, here is Pottery Barn's version sold for approximately $35-$45 on ebay:and here is the one I made for a mere $1.75

Just so you know, I did embroider all of A's name on there.

Here is how I re-created the Valentine's Chair Backers from Pottery Barn.

First I created a pattern for the chair backers using the information ebay sellers posted about the size. I drew out all the pieces on a sheet of white paper.

Then I went shopping for some fabric. I tend to buy more than what I need, but the fabric was only $1.50 per yard so it didn't cost too much. I bought about 3 yards of red fabric, but I only used 1 yard for the four chair backers (because the fabric width was 74"). I bought 3 yards of fusable interfacing for $1.57 per yard, but only used about 1 1/2 yards. I bought a package of ric rac ribbon for the lid of the chair backer. I would also suggest buying .25 yards of wonder under (so the letters can stick to the fabric). It was a good thing that I already had the red gingham in the closet because it was sold out at the fabric store. You will also need a pair of buttons and some velcro pieces.
Fabric Cuts - all seam allowances will be a quarter of an inch

red fabric
  • front and back ( 2 - 7.5" x 9")*
  • sides and bottom (23" x 2.5")*
  • back straps (2 - 11" x 3.5")*
  • top flap (7.5" x 5.5")*
*requires interfacing

  • front and back ( 2 - 7" x 8.5")
  • sides and bottom (22.5" x 2")
  • back straps (2 - 10.5" x 3")
  • top flap (7" x 5")
gingham (seam allowance will be a tad bit more than .25"
  • front and back ( 2 - 7.5" x 9")
  • sides and bottom (23" x 2.5")
  • top flap (7.5" x 5.5")
  • small piece for front "MAIL" letters
Cut out your fabric pieces using the dimensions listed above.
I printed out "MAIL" off the computer and cut them out. Then I traced it onto the fusable interfacing backwards.
Then I ironed on the interfacing to the gingham. If you have wonder under, now would be the time to iron that on top of the interfacing.
Proceed to iron on the interfacing to all the pieces that require it.
Cut out the M-A-I-L letters

Arrange them on the fabric. If you ironed on wonder under, peel off the backing and now iron the letters to the front piece of the chair backer. If not, pin the letters onto the fabric.
Zig zag stitch around each letter.
What the front should now look like
What the back should look like
Pin the side piece all around the front piece of the chair backer
Careful of the corners
Sew into place
Open up the side and take a piece of floss, stitching around the front piece of the chair backer.
When done, it should look like this
Now fold back the side piece and pin on the back piece of the chair backer. Sew in place
Take the straps and fold in half length-wise. Sew side together
Now take the two straps and turn them right-side out.
Set aside the straps
Now sew the lining of the chair backers, using an inseam slightly larger than .25" so that it may fit inside the chair backer.
When done, insert the lining wrong-sides facing each other.
Fold the interior lining and exterior chair backer so that it is facing each other. Pin in place.
If you wish to personalize your chair backers, proceed to do so. Take the red flap to embroider.
Embroider the name. You could also cut out letters, similarly to the MAIL letters process if you do not own an embroidery machine.
Once the name is embroidered on, place the gingham on top of your embroidered name, right-sides facing each other. Notice, that my red piece is much larger than the actual dimensions I listed previously. My embroidery machine hoop is larger than the flap piece so I had to accommodate for that. I will cut off the excess after I sew all the pieces together.
Insert the ric rac between the red and gingham for the three sides, leaving the top of the flap without ribbon. Pin in place and sew down.
Next cut out the heart that is on the flap. The process is similar to the M-A-I-L letters. Trace onto the interface.
Iron it on and then cut it out.
Pin in place and zig zag stitch around the heart.
For the key hole stitch that is on the heart, I used the "34" setting on my regular sewing machine.
I sewed it upside down on the heart.
After wards, sew the button holes onto the straps.
Pin the flap and straps onto the body of the chair backer.
Sew all around the opening of the chair backer. Add buttons to the back of the chair backer and velcro the the flap. Here is the finished chair backer.

I used the extra red fabric to create a table runner for the kids table.

I can't wait until tomorrow to surprise the kids. I found a bunch of little things for the kids clearanced to stuff the chair backers. Happy early Valentine's Day

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