Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Happy Half-Birthday Spammy!

Somewhere around the end of January is Spammy's half-birthday. We don't know Spammy's exact birthday, because unlike Musubi, he was not born at the shelter. Instead, he and his little litter-mates were dropped off at the shelter just days after they were born, which was at the very end of July 2005. So that makes Spammy one and a half years old.

It was also my birthday recently. I'm a bit older than one and a half. I'm more like 25 and 144 months old. You do the math.

Anyway, this evening, shortly after I got home from work, the UPS guy came to our door and he had a mystery box for us! The kitties and I opened it up, and this is what we found! We're not entirely sure who sent us this nice comfy kitty cat carrier, because the packing slip didn't say anything about who sent for it. But we have a sneaking suspicion who did. >:) The kitties and I say thank you very much! (Well, Spammy and Musubi say "prrrr prrr prrr bllllp! meow!", which means "thank you very much!")

Musubi gave the kitty carrier a try too, and she also approves.
Musubi especially needs a sturdy kitty cat carrier because the last time she went to the vet to have her shots updated, she clean busted out of the cardboard carrier that we brought her home in from the shelter. It wasn't that the box was too small for her; rather, it was that she was too determined not to be in a box. At a traffic light, I had to stuff Musubi back into her box, and then drive with one hand holding the box shut, while the other hand took alternated between steering and shifting! Hopefully Musubi won't figure out how to use zippers...

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Should have added this to my last post...

I just noticed on ReverbNation that you can add widgets to your web pages. Here's some stuff from the Gas House Gorillas for those who are interested...

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Just a Bunch of Gorillas, and I Get the Top Bunk

Kenji was out of town this past week and through the weekend, and with the exception of my ten-minute date with Petco to fetch more food for the kitties, I've spent pretty much all of my evenings in. New Jersey finally got a smattering of snow this week - just enough for me to take a broom to dust off the sidewalk and driveway, but not enough for me to take a picture.

I also fell ill in the middle of the week with a sore throat. I thought for sure I had strep, so before the symptoms got out of hand, I visited a doctor. She did a test and said it was not strep, though it might be too early to tell, prescribed an antibiotic for me just in case my symptoms got worse, and sent me on my merry way. I guess I'm turning into a hypochondriac, since my sore throat was already gone by Friday night and now I'm just battling a bit of congestion.

Saturday night I had planned to go with my friend, Tiffany, to see our favorite fun local band, the Gas House Gorillas play way the heck down in Long Branch, NJ. The Gorillas are a favorite among the NJ swing dance community, so this is probably the seventh or eighth time I've seen them play. This time the venue was the lounge at the Ocean Place Resort and Spa, which was nice because it has a plethora of comfy chairs, and the band got to play with a boat as a backdrop. This lounge has no dance floor to speak of, but at least it has a dance carpet, which gives your legs an extra-good workout. In the picture to the left, Hiro Suzuki is on the guitar, Joe Geary on drums, Rick Fink performing vocals, "Handsome" Dan Alvaro on the saxophone, and somewhere in the background behind Dan is Crusher Carmean on the upright bass.

The Gas House Gorillas have a blog of their own, but it seems there's been some kind of controversy over it and therefore will be going away. I teased them last night that I brought my camera so that I could continue the blog on my own blog, but I know I'm just to lazy to make this a regular thing. Plus I don't have the same penchant for witty prose that "Handsome" Dan has (he was the keeper of their blog), so I'll just share a few shots from last night, maybe say a few words about them and then call it a day.

During the break between the first and second set, Tiff got to hear some of the funny music Crusher listens to. In this one photo of Tiff and my forehead (proof that I really was there), I got to listen to some Crusher's music too. I forget what the song was, but it was about worms and dirt, and it was delightfully ridiculous in a manner similar to one of my favorite bands, They Might Be Giants. Haha, a quick Google search for "worms make dirt" reveals that the band is The Aquabats!, and the name of the song is Worms Make Dirt. How wonderfully silly.

Moving right along - here are the Gorillas performing my favorite of their songs, One of These Days. I hesitate to add that link because it's one of those annoying links that forces your browser to resize itself... so I apologize if you already clicked it and were annoyed.

Note the pretty boat in the background. :)

Hiro rockin' the house!

During the third set, the Gorillas were joined by two local blues artists, Jen and Gary. I forget their last name, but Tiffany has their business card, so maybe if she reads this she can leave a comment saying who they are. They were great, and it was a real treat to watch them jam with the Gorillas.

And of course there is a little story that goes with this photo of Tiffany wearing "Handsome" Dan's hat. Following the jam session with Jen and Gary, Dan managed to knock his mic out of its stand with his saxophone (he was obviously rockin' the house). Not only did the mic fall out of its stand, but it also became disconnected, and when Dan reconnected it, it didn't seem to work quite right anymore. Or at least that's how it seemed to me. So he took off his hat and threw it on the floor in front of the band. Rick (the vocalist) then picked it up and handed it to Tiff. Then she put it on. Then I took a picture of her. The End.

Well, the show didn't actually end after that song, but after the show did end, Tiff and I stopped at the diner on the way home. I saw the word diner on the sign, but I say that was a misnomer. In my book, it's not a real diner unless it is open 24 hours, and this one was not - but we made it there just in time for milkshakes, bread pudding, and Tiffany's ambivalent bacon pancake:

Because the show was way down south on the Jersey Shore (well certainly not as far south on the Jersey Shore as it could have been), we knew this was going to be a late night. Before I left my house earlier in the evening, Tiffany suggested I stay over at her house afterwards so I wouldn't have to drive home by myself at 2-3:00 a.m. She sealed the deal when she said she had a bunk bed, and I could have the top bunk. Woo-hoo!

Monday, January 15, 2007

123456 and Uncommon Conversions

While out for a shopping excursion to Wegmans today, our car surpassed the 123,456 mile mark on its odometer! We would have taken a picture, except we forgot to take the camera with us. It probably wouldn't have made any difference though, since we also forgot to look at the odometer when it happened. If we'd had the camera, the picture would have been of 123,459 instead. I think cars should be equipped with odometer alarms that will alert you to moments when your car is about to reach a milestone figure in its odometer reading.

Before Wegmans, we had brunch at Le Peep, a cute little "cookery" in Edison, New Jersey. They have yummy crepes and French Toast with granola on top. On the front of their menu is the following list of "Uncommon Conversions". Parenthetical comments are my own:

2 pinches = 1 bit
4 bits = 1 smidgen
3 dollops = 1 gaggle
1 gaggle = 2 glugs (so 3 dollops is the same as 2 glugs?)
2 glugs = 1 blanket (and a gaggle is the same as a blanket??)
3 blankets = 1 smothering

What I want to know is how many smidgens are in a dollop? I have an idea how much a pinch is, and therefore can figure out about how much a bit and a smidgen are, but I guess I'm on my own after that. The list on the menu is followed by the disclaimer, "Volume may vary with altitude." When I first read it, I thought it said "Volume may vary with attitude," which makes more sense to me since I suppose it must depend on your attitude when you have to decide how large your dollop is.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Best Mac and Cheese Ever

Today, Kenji and I went into the city on a secret mission. Finding a parking space in the East Village was a challenge, so we were very hungry when we finally got out of the car.

We were quite pleased to find Sarita's Macaroni & Cheese right across the street from where we parked. As you can imagine, this little eatery, also know as S'MAC, has many, many kinds of macaroni & cheese. And it's real, real tasty.

Kenji had the Cajun:

Cheddar & Pepper Jack cheeses, andouille sausage, green pepper, onions, celery, garlic and, of course, some genuine Cajun seasoning.

And I had the Brie:

Creamy Brie, roasted figs, roasted shiitake mushrooms & fresh rosemary. The menu says it's addictive. I am addicted. Lucky for my waistline I don't live or work anywhere near the East Village.

Friday, January 12, 2007


Shortly after we arrived in New Jersey, I took up volunteering once a week at our neighborhood school, tutoring a first grader. That ended with the school year back in May, and I'm really not sure whether the tutoring program is even up and running again during this school year. I would think that if it is, the organizers would have kept the tutors' contact information, as they may be the folks most willing to sign up for the program the next time around. I never received a call from the organizers, so either no one organized the program this year, or else they decided they didn't like me as a tutor!

Either way, it doesn't matter. I probably wouldn't have done the program again, now that I work Wednesday afternoons.

This year, instead of tutoring, I've started volunteering for our local library, driving books around town to shut-ins. Today was my first day, and I had about eleven elderly folks to whom I made deliveries. Several lived in the same elder-care complexes, so I really only had to make seven stops. I saw only five of the eleven people; the other six simply wanted their books left with the front desk of their building or by their front door. The folks I did meet were all grateful to see me, especially since they'd already finished the books they had been reading, and were itching to get new ones. I enjoyed the experience, and look forward to driving more books a couple of Fridays from now.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Making Origami Paper

For our wedding, Kenji's mom and dad folded 1,000 cranes out of shiny gold-colored paper squares, and had them arranged in the shape of the family crest, mounted on a black matte background and framed. It hangs in our living room, above where the sofa corners up with the love seat, and looks like this.

In Japanese culture, it is tradition for the bride-to-be to fold 1,000 paper cranes before the wedding. This is meant to teach her patience. I'm not sure what it means if the bride-to-be's in-laws fold the cranes for her -- so I've been making up for it for the last two and a half years by folding tiny cranes out of the little paper napkin rings that come on the flatware at some restaurants. At least the wait staff is patient with me while I fold instead of review the menu.

Getting back to the family crest - I don't know anything about it, such as its origins or whether it has any particular meaning. Kenji says he's only known of the crest for about ten years, so he really doesn't know anything about it either. Perhaps Kenji's mom or dad could leave and informative comment to this post if they happen to know some more information. ;)

Anyway, after this weekend, I am about 22 cranes closer to my 1,000. Two of them I folded at Chevy's in Clifton while we waited for our lunch on Saturday. But the other 20 were a result of me playing with Adobe Illustrator all weekend, recreating the crest as a vector graphics file. I have an evil plan for this file, hee hee hee. Ok, it's not an evil plan, it's just a plan. But saying I have an evil plan is more fun for me.

What was not part of my evil plan was deciding, after printing the crest, that it might be cool to fold into a crane. I was very pleased when I finished to find that the family crest is especially well-suited for this. If folded correctly, the leaves align themselves nicely on the wings, the lines in the leaves look like ribs and a spine, and the small circle in the crux of the leaves becomes a collar bone around the base of the crane's neck. As you can see from the photos below, I experimented with making the crest two or even three different colors.

Using three colors results in a bird that has one color for its breast, another for its wings, and a third for its back and base of the tail.

My first few cranes had only the large crest on them (not shown). Then Kenji suggested adding smaller crests to the wings to dress them up a bit. I decided to add the mini-crests to all four corners of my origami paper, which resulted in a nice decorative head and tail.

I now have a template that prints twelve 2.5" origami squares on an 8.5" x 11" sheet of paper. Although my template also prints little crop marks, I find the biggest challenge is cutting the sheet to make the pieces as square as possible. Anyway, fun-fun-fun. Now I just have to find something to do with all these colorful cranes!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Christmas, and dinner with an alien!

It's very plain to me that although I take my camera with me lots of places, I really don't do a very good job of actually using it.

Take this holiday season, and our short visit to Seattle to see Kenji's folks. I started off right - got a nice shot of Kenji at the airport in Newark, with the check-in sign displaying the date just above his head.

Anyway we arrived in Seattle late on Christmas Eve, just in time to go to sleep actually. On Christmas morning we enjoyed a lovely family breakfast at home of Kenji's aunt and uncle and cousins. There were biscuits and gravy, egg and sausage casserole, and my most favorite - French toast casserole! It was so yummy! We also met Spammy and Musubi's two kitty cat cousins, Mr. Cuddles and Lily Cuddles. They share Spam and Musubi's love of Christmas trees, and the ornaments they contain. It was very entertaining to watch Kenji's cousins open their Christmas gifts.

Later on in the day, Kenji's folks had a good-size get-together of friends and family at their house. Again, the food was delicious. Many photos were taken of various family members, though unfortunately none using my camera. Of course it might have helped if I remembered to take it out of my coat pocket! Photos or not, it really was nice to spend Christmas with family for a change. As I mentioned in an earlier post, this was probably the first time in six years for both Kenji and me.

On the day after Christmas, Kenji and I went with Kenji's brother and girlfriend to the Uwajimaya store in Seattle. It was fun because it reminded me of Hawaii, sort of like a cross between Shirokiya and Daiei. My camera magically found its way out of my pocket at Uwajimaya to take this picture of Spam Musubi. I show this to the kitties to remind them that they better behave... or else!

Later in the evening, Kenji's mom treated everyone to dinner at Cucina! Cucina! Italian Cafe. Again it was Mom & Dad, Kenji's brother and his girlfriend, "our house" Grandma and Grandpa, and Auntie, Uncle and cousins. "Soapy" Grandma should have been there also, but she refused to let us abduct her
from her home earlier in the day. She protested some silliness about it being too cold to go outside. Perhaps the problem was that our abduction skills are simply not up to par. Ironically, as it turns out, we did meet an alien at Cucina! Cucina! I bet he has excellent abduction skills - I'm sure we could have learned a thing or two from him, or maybe even have brought him along with us when we stopped in to visit "Soapy" Grandma. Oh well.