January 29, 2011

Alden is Fluish

Alden got sick around the 20th and was sick through the 29th. It started with a cough and then he got really floppy. He was out of daycare that week and we took him to the doc on the 22. After a quick test they told us he had the A type flu. That lasted for a couple more days, but he wasn't getting much better, so we took him back and they said he had an ear infection...

After ten days of us all getting pretty cranky the pox left our house and we are getting back to picking our clothes up of the floor and doing dishes and other non-sickie activities.

January 18, 2011

Alden Turns Three!

Alden is three years old! Ask him and he'll emphatically tell you so too, with 3 little fingers extended. He is now just over three feet tall, and weighs about 30 lbs. He'd been looking forward to his birthday for a week, and getting so excited when boxes in the mail arrived addressed to him. We threw him a party on the 17th because it was MLK day and a lot of folks had the day off. On that morning, he woke to this awesome train set (from Uncle Aaron and Aunt Liz) already assembled on the living room floor. After playing with it for most of the morning, he was whisked away by Ilana's Dad for a Reny's/grocery store adventure so we could get the house ready for the party.

We'd been getting pretty excited too and made plans for his first themed birthday party. Alden really likes frogs and asked for a froggy birthday. We decorated our dining room to look like a pond and put his frog cake in the center.Every day for weeks before the party, Ilana would ask Alden what kind of cake he wanted. The frog theme predominated, although close to the actual event a giraffe was mentioned. As for cake flavor, his requests were for vanilla about 70% of the time and chocolate 30% of the time. The frog-shaped cake was a design by Ilana and ultimately was a yellow cake with hedge-betting chocolate cupcakes for eyes. (This saved us as Alden ultimately went with chocolate when it came time to cut the cake). The frosting was a fondant with green tea (matcha) for coloring. All was made lovingly from scratch with no artificial colors or ingredients. Making a "natural" fondant icing was tough. This frosting takes on the consistency of play-doh if made correctly and is rolled out and draped over the cake rather than spread. All the fondant recipes Ilana originally found called either for boiling sugar in water for an eternity or for vile ingredients like marshmallows and Crisco. The no-cook recipe we ultimately used was mostly powdered sugar, with a little sugar syrup, butter, vanilla and green tea. It was a little too sweet for my tastes, but the kids dug it. Two other families celebrated with us - Evelyn and her family, Sophia and her family. Karen and Ilana's Dad also joined the fun. Alden was thrilled to host Sophia at his house. They hugged and hugged so hard that they fell onto the ground laughing.

Sophia was really excited to play with Alden's toys and to run around the house. She basically took Alden's hand and lead him all around, upstairs and downstairs, inventing new games along the way. She kind of monopolized him, but Alden didn't seem to mind.Playing with Leggos was one of the favorite birthday games. That and chasing each other around the house screaming. Ilana labored for weeks trying to find just the right party game and thought she'd found the perfect one - an olfactory game with paper flower cut outs and lots of different natural extracts. Alden is really big into smelling spices, lotions and soaps. We do a sort of smell safari at the kitchen table, where we pull down jars of spices for Alden to compare, and he'll do this for hours. The birthday game was a big bust. Alden and Sophia just wanted to keep doing their thing and Evvie was a little too shy to play the game with me, so we abandoned it at the table.Alden got some great gifts this year, including puzzles, toy dinos (he is showing us how they go "roar", much to Sophia's delight), books, arts and crafts, giant fuzzy pipecleaners (so cool!) wooden robots, a table and chair set that's just his size, and a annual membership to the Portland Children's Museum. Hooray!All in all it was a successful birthday party, and hopefully one that will be remembered with fondness for many years to come
On the 18th, we sent him to school with cupcakes, and they sent the kids home early because of snow. This is the 4th year in a row that it's snowed on Alden's actual birthday!

January 15, 2011

Capricorn Ball Redux

Capricorn Ball 2011 was a little different than in previous years. A friend of the CB hosts has late stage cancer and his wife is one of the artists who frequently makes goat effigies for this party. She suggested a paper lantern salute to bring good fortune to her ailing husband, which was a very nice addition. Karen made the effigy this year, which was burned afterward.
Fifty Chinese paper lanterns were lit at dusk (video below). It was a bit chaotic because the lighting effort wasn't coordinated and it took about 5-10 minutes for the candle to heat enough air to lift a given lantern. The final effect was less a mass launch than a steady trickle of rising lanterns - they looked like new stars appearing one by one in an ever darkening dusky sky. It was magical and beautiful to watch.

The arrhythmic, quasi-tribal and uberwhite drumming that normally accompanies the bonfire was absent this year. Instead a young fella with an iPhone and a couple of large speakers made weird musical "soundscapes". His app allowed him to make different noises depending on whether his fingers brushed, tapped or made circles on the screen. This resulted in lots of atonal, extraterrestrial bleeping and digital whooshing noises. We could only stand a few minutes of it, but it went on for the whole lantern launch and burn. To spare you the same pain, I've muted the sound on the video.
Once all the lanterns were launched, Gust (the party host) lit the bonfire and the straw goat burnt up quickly.
The fire was followed by a potluck and live music by the Zulu Leprechauns, who have been the party band for years. Alden loved the band and was all over them while they were setting up and doing their sound check. However it was a bit too loud for him when they started playing and we had to scoot away to an adjacent room to dance.All the Capricorns attending the 2011 party are pictured above. It was Ilana's Dad's birthday, and since the Ball is all about celebrating Capricorns, we invited him to the party. I think he had a good time. We had black forest cake and ice cream for him back at home later that night.

January 8, 2011

More Holidays - Birthday and New Year

Joseph Sandy and Geoffrey came to town the day after Christmas to celebrate the holidays and my birthday. We did a second round of gift exchanging and hanging out.

I coordinated getting a garage door opener for Karen and the Gilg boys spent the next two days installing the thing. It took more time than I thought it would, but it was pretty straight forward and we did not make any big mistakes or come across any insurmountable obstacles in the process.

My birthday was quite nice. One very amazing present was a carpet that Karen and Larry got for me. I was excited to finally have a carpet in the dining room but Alden was over the moon about it. He jumped around and rolled and danced and told everybody else to jump around as well. He did a fantastic job making that carpet feel welcome in our house and showing Karen and Larry they had made a good choice.

Another fantastic gift was the promise of future support for my beekeeping endeavor. I plan to keep a hive of bees this spring, but right now I am fairly ignorant about what I am getting myself into. Geoffrey got me two swell books and once I know what's what I'll let folks know what I need. The birthday celebration was a small affair with immediate family and a few close friends. Of course, the food was amazing and there were two cakes. Folks also went a bit silly getting exotic beers, which were a very nice addition.
Alden was told about my birthday a few weeks too early and was more eager for it to come that I think I was. When it finally arrived he was crazy-excited. A very nice thing to see.
I did not get pictures of New Years, but it was one of the best ones I had in awhile. Geoffrey was still in town so he came over, we invited our friends Darrell and Kenny and played poker till 2010 was behind us. Most of us agreed 2010 was lousy for the most part and are looking forward to an awesome 2011.

January 6, 2011


A look back at a few of this years holiday doings.
Both Ilana and I had Yankee Swap gift gatherings at work. Mine was especially awkward because there were only eight people (small office) with six participating in the gift swap and only five wrapped their gifts... The point of the swap being to either go with a surprise wrapped gift or take someone's gift you can see.

Ilana's swap was much better, about 50 participants at a nice restaurant with a good spread. The swapping was good fun, even though Ilana was a little put out at getting a tree ornament. It was soon swapped away though and after a swap or two more we ended up with a copy of The Lobster Coast, a book we have both been meaning to read. We also learned that the author, Colin Woodard is on the Board of Directors at Bigelow so Ilana can get it signed if she wants.

Ilana gets a new map of Maine, essential for us non GPS types, but alas it was soon taken from her.

Alden was at daycare finishing his nap for the start of the party, towards end they called us and he got to celebrate with us. He'd been to the restaurant a week earlier with Ilana and developed a crush on one of the serving staff. He kept looking for her, upstairs, downstairs, kitchen, bathroom... but it was not her shift.

We spent actual Christmas at Karen's house, exchanging gifts in the morning and then inviting a few people over for early supper.