Sunday, September 27, 2009

It's a Jungle Out Here

My friend Jocelyn organized such a fun Jungle/Chinese themed baby shower for Little Tam this past weekend. Yes, jungle/chinese--it blended beautifully, that's how creative she is.

I have to say how amazed and grateful I am for the people out here who show generosity and love to us Tams. We just moved here such a little time ago, but already feel welcomed and supported. Thank you to everybody who made the baby shower a success, and to all the others who have been helpful to us during our entire adjustment to this new home. I feel especially secure in realizing my transition to motherhood will be aided by dozens of wise and experienced women who have proven themselves poised to assist where their talents can best be used. Speaking of talents, here are some artistic endeavors...We did a lot of games at the shower, most of which went beyond the typical ones. Pictured above is our winning face from the "make a baby" game. I loved this little face's spiky Asian hair and Chinese eyes. Can hardly wait to see what Little looks like in real life--but I bet this sculpture captures some of his key features. :)
Here is a pic that shows 5 of my favorite things from this shower: on the table, note origami animals (I am planning to string them on a garland for the nursery); a bag of bead binkies, which we guesstimated and counted for a game; a "sock rose" boquet, created by my crafty Young Women; a pile of socks on the floor; and crazily laughing women trying to match/wrestle over those socks in competition for a prize. Best game ever, and I am thrilled to note that Little now owns a bazillion pairs of socks, in every conceivable pattern and color. (yeah, he probably won't wear matching pairs very often).

Here I am folding the socks after the matching game, and also note in the background a lineup of bags which held the prizes. Jocelyn was so detail-oriented for this baby shower--I loved it! She wouldn't let herself be in any pictures, but this one has her arm in the corner, so haha, she is preserved for posterity anyway.

The take-home party favors had gorgeous fortune cookies and mini candy pacifiers for people to "suck" on, getting in touch with our inner child.

Happy chatting women. Here on the table is a better shot of the sock rose boquet created by the Young Women. I don't want to ever dissemble it, it looks so lovely.

The food! A few favorites were grog punch, cupcakes made from scratch (decorated to look like rattles) as well as Jocelyn's famous cheese balls. Those lovely tiered cakes were sculpted of diapers, of course, and were the best I have ever seen.

Here is a close-up of one of the diaper cakes. I loved the brown "grass" and velvety chocolate-colored burp cloths that lined this cake.

As I mentioned in a previous post, Little's nursery had no "theme" to it, but rather consisted of whatever random colors and objects we had acquired over the past few months. Jocelyn let me keep so many decorations from the shower, I now have enough jungly stuff to tie together the nursery! So fun. I will have to post pics when the room gets put together.
We now have just about everything we could ever want or need for this baby. Thanks again to all who have helped get us ready to go!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Touring Boston

Aunt Jennifer & Uncle Mike flew out from Idaho to Boston this past weekend, so we made the most of visiting with them by attending church out there in the morning and then walking the Freedom Trail with them Sunday afternoon.

Here we are by the harbor and Bunker Hill Memorial (background). Most of this history meant little to my Hong Konger Husby, but he was patient to accompany us as we saw the sights, and stood on grounds, that were pivotal in the United States of America's origins.

We explained a few Revolutionary War facts to Jerry along the route, like how the Boston Tea Party came about, and who Paul Revere was, etc.

This building didn't need much explanation, as Jerry was familiar with the history behind it: the Declaration of Independence was first read from the balcony of this structure. Standing in the square below, I could imagine how listeners must have felt. We like the way this part of Boston blends the ancient and modern--skyscrapers alongside historical buildings.

The Holocaust Memorial appeared to branch off the Freedom Trail, and we spent a few reverent minutes reading the quotes there.

I did not realize the Freedom "TRAIL" is actually a literal trail that winds through the city--cute. We just traipsed along the red brick line, following it from one historical site to another.

The Boston Common brought us face to face with a childhood memory of mine: the pond in the classic book titled Make Way for Ducklings. Note the center island and swan boats.

The Commons also had a mounted police. We always like horsies.
And lastly, one of the most impressive sights of Boston this weekend was how people parked their cars. How is it done?! Can anybody tell me how long it might take this particular vehicle to shimmy out of its parallel parking slot--with just inches to spare between both front and back bumpers. Wow, wow.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

18 Days Later...

Say hello to the newest member of the Tam Fam: High Ho Silver? Bah, let's just say her name is still pending.

Our cute little ol' Pontiac gave out a couple weeks back (18 days ago, to be precise), and we had a minor crisis on our hands finagling transportation. Thank you to friends, city busses, U-Haul rentals, Enterprise rentals, and our own feet who stepped forward to help during this time period. We went through a grieving process of sorts as it became apparent we needed to find a replacement car, rather than fixing the old one. Conveniently both Jerry and I have equal commitment to use caution in making big decisions, so we patiently slogged through number crunching, researching brands, models, dealerships, and financial options to get something that would be a good value for us. We lived the slogan, "Pray as though it all depends on the Lord, but work as though it all depends on YOU." It appears the work and prayers paid off. We found this sweet sedan that cleared all our careful background checking and fulfilled our list of "must haves;" we finalized payment on it this morning (the best part: didn't need to take out a loan for it--totally stretching us, but feels great at the same time!) life is good. We are now the happy owners of a 2002 Mazda 626.

We have 5 more free auto checks left on our autofax account, so if anybody else out there is considering a used car purchase in the next month or so, let us know! We can run the VIN number for you for free, first come first served. It is a nice way to narrow the search so you don't have to go looking at cars that don't already meet your standards from the beginning. And it can help you be more confident and effective in the bargaining process. Also, in case anybody did not already know this resource, the BBB is another great tool. It saved us more than once from making a potentially bad decision in our car purchase process. For example, we found a great deal on a car from one dealership, but then checked with the BBB and found the business had a rating of "F" (failing, as in, a school grade of "F") for being unresponsive to consumer complaints over the last three years. So we decided to start our shopping at only the businesses that cleared our BBB check first. It made our decision-making a lot less stressful. We wish we had shopped around like that for mechanics when we first moved here.

The whole experience gave us some tender teaching moments from the Lord. We had been praying for our old car to keep running. When it became apparent those prayers were not being answered in the affirmative, we started purposefully looking for what lessons the Lord was intending us to take from this challenge--and indeed, we found some gems. They are, for the most part, personal lessons, so we will not elaborate here. Some are intangible, faith-promoting lessons, but we also feel like this whole car issue has been a temporal blessing to us, because it has given us a renewed commitment to keep our rainy day fund strong. It feels a lot easier now to be self-disciplined in spending. Suffice to say we are glad for this little trial--and really grateful for the happy ending. We spent a few minutes just staring at our car in the driveway when we first brought it home, basking in feelings of satisfaction.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Rag quilts and other homemaking attempts

This week I finished my third rag quilt. I am sending it to my brother for a birthday gift next week (yep, he doesn't read this blog, so I am perfectly safe posting before his special day). The quilt is draped over our famous free couch. Also note: our living room has cool toned blue carpet combined with warm, creamy colored walls. This combination bothered me when we first moved in, because I wasn't sure how to tie it together. But over the past few months of living with it, my color sense adapted and I don't care anymore. And speaking of crazy colors, I love my new birth ball. It makes me think of a bubble blown from a wad of classic pink Bazooka gum. I call it my "bubble of peace." (Hypnobabies pun...har har). I have been using the birth ball as a chair lately to encourage Little Tam to have proper positioning. He has gone from breech to transverse in the last few days (hoping that means he is headed in the right direction). AND one more interesting point to this picture: our treadmill has finally relocated to this corner by the front door. We had a formal complaint filed against us for using the treadmill in our bedroom, and then later when we moved it to the dining room it didn't help matters. Most unfortunate. I have decided our next apartment has to be on the ground level to avoid bothering the neighbors.

Anyway, back to the latest rag quilt: This quilt for my brother was the first time I tried piecing together non-square scraps. It seemed like a brilliant idea at first, because the overall effect was like the random color patterns of a landscape, if looking at it from an aerial view. However, as soon as the sewing began I realized my idea was flawed; with different sizes/shapes/types of fabric, the rough seams did not line up correctly and I had a lot of trouble with holes where the seam corners intersected.

On the plus side, I have always wanted to do a bit of embroidery on my rag quilts and finally made it happen with this one. I never embroidered before, so don't laugh, but I think this "Justin" roper boot turned out alright (my brother's name is Justin, for those who don't know). There is kind of a Western theme to the other fabrics on the quilt as well, with sage greens, cowboys on horses, coyotes running in the desert, etc.

Where's, can you spy the next rag quilt in this picture of Little Tam's nursery? I know there is a lot of junk piled, so good luck...

We got that cute pixar lamp at a yard sale for one dollar. I am still trying to figure out how to organize the great baby items we have acquired over the past few months, but obviously the crib has become a receptacle for all kinds of stuff to the point that there isn't room for a baby in there anymore. eek.

If you haven't found it yet, the quilt is laying on top of the basket.
And here's a close up. This one obviously used regular 5 inch squares, in somewhat random placement. There are 50 different fabric designs, with each represented twice so the quilt can be a "matching quilt."

Some of the colors might seem girly, but I think it is good for a little boy to have some pink in his life. Especially when that little boy made us think he was a girl to start with. Anyway, the panda is fun to show Little's Chinese heritage, and the frog is still kind of boyish despite its pink lily pad.

Here is my favorite square: our Little missionary.

I love rag quilts because they are pretty foolproof--even a non-seamstress like myself can whip one up and make it halfway cute. Besides, they almost look like they are meant to have mistakes, with the fringing and frays. So I feel like overall it is a forgiving project for a beginner to attempt.

I hosted a craft night at my house a few weeks ago and some of my friends came to work on their own rag quilts. This table and chair set we found on Craig's list earlier this summer when we were waiting for our household goods to arrive. It was just $40, and very clean/sturdy.

Anyway, there are a few other rooms in our house that I might highlight in the next couple days. We really are happy to have found this apartment. I don't know if the homemaking report is interesting to anybody but my mom, but at least the pics will be documented here for posterity. =)

Friday, September 11, 2009


A moment of silence just passed, and now feel free to be inspired. If you haven't seen it yet, this clip is a good one. It shows how God can consecrate trials for the benefit of many.

(I know my blog is saying I posted this clip at 9:01 am, but it must still be on Utah time, because my clock here at home says 11:01). So much for my perfect post idea...meh.


Yesterday I attempted my first use of public transportation here in Massachusetts. Our car is still in the shop (and they have no idea why it won't start, a whole week since we towed it there...wah), but I didn't want to postpone my doctor checkup, since I just love getting to hear Little's heartbeat. So I figured out the schedule to walk/ride the bus from our house to the birth center, which is technically located in a different city. Bold? Yes, thank you, it was.

First thing to realize, the nearest bus stop to our house was a fifteen minute walk away, based on Google's estimation. Since I am a waddling pregnant lady, I gave myself twice that time frame "just in case." When the bus still hadn't arrived ten minutes past its scheduled time, I called the central station and double checked that it was still en route. With reassurance that it was, I stayed at the roadside for a few more minutes, ready to wave down the bus whenever it might come by.

I saw a large, square-windowed vehicular beast rolling toward me, so I vigorously started waving my arm--I would take no chances on getting passed by. But the bus did pass me by...because it turned out not to be a bus. It was a motor home, full of smiling people. A few minutes later the real bus arrived, only it was not a bus either. It was one of those mini-van types of public transports. Cute. Very clean and comfy.

With two transfers, I assumed naturally I would miss at least one of them, and sure enough I did. Thankfully the missed transfer occured on the way home, so I did still get to my appointment on time and heard cute Little's heart thumping away. By the way, my caregiver had lots of praise for my excellent sugar levels, which means a lot because I have had issues in the past (before pregnancy). Thank you, my wonderful body, for staying healthy! But back to the missed transfer issue, the bus I needed to catch for getting home only came once per hour, so I enjoyed some significant down time in a sketchy park area bus stop. Armed with the September issue of the Ensign, munching a box of raisins packed in my purse, I felt pretty satisfied with even this delay.

A good excursion overall, and one that left me feeling strangely liberated. If anyone is seeking some spice in life, a day using the city bus just might do the trick.

Monday, September 7, 2009

They once roamed our neighborhood

This adventure happened a couple weeks back, but as our Labor Day plans to go on a daytrip this weekend were made void by our car needing repairs (again--boo), we are recapping some past fun jaunts around the area.

These are actual fossil footprints embedded in the banks of the Connecticut River. Here, Jerry's right hand is pointing to the index "finger"/"toe?" of a track about 12 inches in length. I am not sure if the print is easily visible in the photo, because--while it looks obvious to me, as I know what to look for--the light was a bit flat this evening. Notice there are four toes. This likely means the track belonged to Otozoum, a large herbivore, depicted in the painting above. Jerry's left hand is pointing to another track, which indicates the stride length of this dinosaur.

The silty banks closer to the water's edge explain why this area is so rich in dinosaur tracks. We had a lovely time enjoying the river view. Also note the house that is about two feet from water's edge.

Friday, September 4, 2009


Hope everybody doesn't mind a little rant/math game/song called "electric blues." It goes something like this:

Utah average price per kwh (kilowatt hour)=8.18 cents
Massachusetts avg. price per kwh=17.81 cents

Granted, our Utah apartment was a bit less than half the square footage of our current Massachusetts condo. So I expected electricity prices to be perhaps two to three times as much in Massachusetts (is that reasoning too elementary?)...and then roughly double that amount because the avg. price per kwh is just a little more than double here in MA to start, aside from having the bigger home. So is my math off, or should our electric bill for Massachusetts theoretically only be about 6 times what it was in Utah?

Well, it is 8 times more. As in, we just went from paying at most, $20/month for the past couple years to now paying $160 per month. Wow. Good thing we're on a rotational program...because it means we aren't stuck with MA electric bills beyond next summer. I know the whole "bloom where you're planted" attitude could come in useful right about now, and I should remind everybody there are plenty of things about MA we enjoy. But electricity insanity isn't one of them.

Even you Californians don't get my sympathy anymore, because the only two states who have higher avg. electric price/kwh than MA are Connecticut and Hawaii. Here's where I get these official stats.

Okay. End of rant. I suppose I feel a little better now.