Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Disaster that was Family Nite

Isn't the notion of Family Nite a great idea?

I have read about it in magazines and even books, so I had this absolutely brilliant idea that I proposed to Yusuke and he very willingly agreed to.

Our plan was to deem Saturday nights to be Family Nite in our house, and our goal was to bond with our kids while eating great food that we had all participated in cooking and then we would expose Ailin to an array of great films (a.k.a. we would let Ailin stay up slightly later than usual so we could watch a kids movie with her.) Then after she goes to bed, we would sit down and watch an "adult" movie. How could this not appeal to my movie-obsessed husband?

The main rule would go as follows:
The menu must include food that we could all participate in cooking. For example, homemade pizza, one-pot stews or soups, homemade sushi, okonimiyaki, etc. Yusuke's only job was pick up a few groceries and then rent 2 movies.

I drafted up a schedule (me and my damn schedules!):
4:30 pm - Yusuke must be home from grocery shopping by this time.
5:00 pm - Luka gets his bath.
5:15 pm - Ailin and Papa take a bath.
5:45 pm - We all start preparing the food together.
6:15 pm - We eat dinner.
7:00 pm - Ailin's movie starts. (try to stick to movies that are 90 min or less.)
8:30 pm - Bedtime routine starts (storytime, songs, sleep)

Oh, you are probably laughing about how militaristic it all seems. As if a 2 year old and a baby will so obediently succumb to my strict schedule, right!

Here is a rundown of what really happened and how it became chaos rather quickly.

4:25 pm - Ailin gets into a container of cream and it ends up all over her face, arms and hair. Time to hit the shower!
4:45 pm - Ailin's bath is done, but Luka has been sleeping peacefully for a last couple hours and is still sleeping. I don't want to wake him, so I put it off.
5:00 pm - I prepare most of the veggies for the pizza.
5:30 pm - Yusuke arrives home from grocery shopping. He was supposed to pick up the yeast and the whole wheat flour for our pizza dough. He has not been able to rent the DVDs because he had some overdue DVDs on his rental card and therefore could not rent again until he had returned those.
6:00 pm - Luka wakes up so I bathe him. I also check around for yeast. There is none.
6:15 pm - Yusuke finally admits that he didn't buy yeast because he bought whole wheat flour, and isn't that all I needed?
6:20 pm - Yusuke goes out to the store to get yeast.
7:00 pm - Yusuke returns with said yeast. He sits on couch to read newspaper.
7:01 pm - Ailin and I began mixing the ingredients to make the pizza dough. Yusuke seems not to notice.
7:10 pm - I set the dough aside to "rise", then go off to do something else.
7:45 pm - I check the dough. It has not risen. Not one tiny bit.
7:46 pm - I mix another batch of dough using a recipe that does not require yeast.
7:50 pm - Ailin and I try to roll out the dough. It doesn't work. I end up just spatula-ling into the pan. Ailin and I are full of dough. Yusuke, still reading the newspaper and watching TV, seems not to notice this.
7:55 pm - I call Yusuke over to the table to help us put the vegetables and meat on the pizza. Each of us gets one portion. He sees that the dough has already been "rolled out." He gets mad for not being "included." He runs off to bedroom to pout.

Argument ensues. Lots of yelling. I am told I am crazy and should check into a mental hospital. He is told he should go to a hospital for angsty teenagers who pout whenever they don't get their way. (Does such a place exist?)

8:10 pm - Things calm down enough to place veggies and meat on the pizza in peace. I put the (god damn) pizza in to bake.

8:30 pm - We start eating. Yusuke comments on how good the pizza tastes despite all the trouble we had. He eats several pieces, but then I notice that he is not eating the crust because it is "too filling." Ailin is not eating much pizza, and is instead filling up on garlic bread.

9:15 pm - Yusuke takes Ailin to bed. I take Luka to bed in a separate room. (No time for a kids movie.)

11:00 pm - I wake up after falling asleep with Luka. I try to wake Yusuke up. He eventually gets up and then goes out the couch and promptly falls asleep.

11:05 pm - I, normally full of spark and energy at this time of night, fall asleep on the couch as well.

12:30 am - We wake up and go to bed. (No adult movie for us either.)

The next day, we laughed a bit over our disasterous Family Nite, and commented that maybe it takes some practice. We vowed to give it another try. I double checked the garbage can to ensure that the raw pizza dough I had thrown out the night before did not rise in the middle of the night. (It had not.)

This past weekend, we gave it another try. This time, Yusuke was working and would not return home until 6pm, so we decided to make a dessert together. I found a cool recipe for ice cream sandwiches involving shredded cocoanut. I made seafood curry for dinner.

To make a long story, another argument ensued, this time time during the actual meal. We did sit down to watch the kids movie (Bambi), but Yusuke slept through most of it. The ice cream sandwiches that we made sucked and were extremely sweet. The ice cream was good though. At 9:00 pm, I took Ailin to bed, and inadvertently fell asleep with her. I woke up at 1:00 am and remembered that I still had a buttload of chores to do - the dishes, the laundry, etc. I found Yusuke sitting on the couch, eating snacks, drinking alcohol and reading the paper. He very innocently claimed that he "just woken up"! I went about my chores, and then we both went to bed.

I asked Ailin what she thought of Bambi the next evening, and she said, "Bambi kirai". (I hate Bambi.) I have never heard her use the word "hate" before. I hate Bambi too.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

PSE Final Projects

The class is finished now. It is called Photo Editing: Frame-ups and Special Effects from Jessica Sprague's web site.

This is a storyboard and we were supposed to choose a series of photos that could possibly tell a story. Then, add some type and perhaps other embellishments if we felt like it.

The Final Project included making this 9 photo grid, turning it sepia, selectively recoloring the center photo, adding some brushes and then some type. I am planning to get this printed out for my fellow Bilingual Kids Club members - the original four. We now have a few more members but they have only joined since January and they attend kind of infrequently, so I actually don't have many photos of them or their kids.

Well, now that this intensive class is done, I can move on to others that I signed up for but are self-paced. Some people asked about this particular class. Jessica launched her web site 2 years ago this past June and in celebration, she offered this class for free. She normally does not offer it, and it might have been newly developed just for this occasion. Not sure, but she will probably offer it again sometime. At the end of the class, she mentioned that over 1000 people were taking the class, which is so amazing to me!

Of course, she does offer a variety of other classes all ranging in price from $30 to $60. She seems to throw in a lot of free stuff, like digital kits that you can use in photoshop. Of course, she mainly teaches scrapbookers, but you can learn Photoshop skills and apply them to anything, really - Framed art for your house, gifts for other people, your job, etc. I told my husband he could use my access to the class if he wanted to learn Photoshop for work.

She also offers some free tutorials to give people an introduction to Photoshop and digital scrapbooking. I think if you do a search, you will probably find other people doing free tutorials as well. Some of my more computer literate friends used to tell me that if I wanted to learn photoshop, I should just play around with it. It's really not that intuitive of a software program and doesn't come natural to me at all. I also have had Photoshop on my computer for the last 7 years and never learned how to use it until now.

Other places to look for Photoshop training:
Renee Pearson's Digital Training
Big Picture Scrapbooking

Thursday, July 16, 2009

More Fun on PSE

Original - Ailin is posing in front of a tree.

This was an easy one. We had to add text to the photo. The pink in "strike" matches her jacket. We also had to add "brown paper" textures underneath to make the photo look worn and postcardish.

Original - Ailin playing in her pool on the day I came home from the hospital with Luka. She was so absolutely happy to be at home again with me.

The difference is so subtle, but it is called "burned edge" and apparently photographers do it to their photos all the time. The edges are made a little darker and the center or focal points of the photo are lightened up slightly. You can see that this photo is a little richer than the original.

Original - Ailin is getting to know her new little brother.

I call this photo "Touch", and behind it, there are some textures going on, and there is a clipping mask to make a nice border around the photo.

Original - another great pool photo.

Project Day 10 - On Day 10 of this class, we were asked to do lots of stuff to our photo including something new. The new thing was to add an overlay with text. The overlay "Life is" with a bar underneath it for more text was designed by Jessica Sprague.

Original - This photo was taken at our neighborhood studio "Anne's Garden" last February.

This technique is called Selective Recoloring, and it is surprisingly easy and quick to achieve.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Online Learning - PSE

PSE stands for Photoshop Elements. I figured that out when I started taking these online courses and they kept referring to it as PSE. Cool.

Here are some things I have been learning how to do. The photos shown below were done in a freebie course offered by Jessica Sprague on her web site. See under Links I Love to the right. She was only offering this course for a limited time, but for a freebie, I am amazed by how much I am learning from this class.

Original - Ailin & Luka

Touched up with a brush (like a stamp) added. Actually, it is two separate stamps put together and colored to match other colors in the photo, particularly the blue on Luka's outfit and the red on Ailin's pajamas.

Original - Mande at an Afternoon Tea Event

Touched up and tinted to look "old fashioned". I really didn't do a great job with this one. I also tried tinting the hair to make it look blonder, but that didn't really work. Then, we were supposed to paint stars on the background. It would have worked better if the background had been a darker color to begin with. Also added a frame designed by Jessica Sprague.

Original - Ailin and her friend Erina after the Easter Egg Hunt

Cropped with a grungy clipping mask around it. The clipping mask acts like a shaped cropping tool. Also, added some decorative stamps to match Ailin's orange color on her coat and the word art "Relax".

Original - Grandma Yuki and Ailin on the train to Tokyo.

Changed to black and white and added 3 textures behind this photo which give it an "old, worn" look. Also, added an embellished frame designed by Jessica Sprague to the top of the photo.

Original - Birthday cake and flowers

Zoomed in and cropped to focus on birthday cake; desaturated and tinted slightly; Added "through the viewfinder" texture to give it an old, worn look. Also added a brush stamp and word art "celebrate" to the lower part of the photo.

Some of these finished photos turned out nicely, I think. My favorite is the one of Ailin with her Grandma Yuki on the train. It is a great portrait of the two of them. I also like the photo of Ailin and her friend in the park.

This class is an intensive 3-week course with a new lesson every day, even on weekends! This is just the beginning.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


This blog post is not intended to get comments from people wishing me happy birthday. Really, I just want to write about it.

In Japan, 33 is considered a bad luck year for women, and we are supposed to go and pray at a shrine. I don't know why. Seems to me that 33 is a prime year - many women get married, have babies, change jobs, get masters degrees, etc right around this age. Plus, according to Glamour magazine, the early 30's is a woman's sexual prime. (I am way too tired for that though.)

So, I am not going to go and pray at a shrine to wish away all my bad luck. I am going to embrace 33 and enjoy it.

I have a lot to write about actually, but I want to review my New Years goals instead and see if I am making progress on them.

2009 Chronological Scrapbook - doing it and keeping up. Last week, I ordered my photos for June. I am getting bored with it though and would like to change it up for 2010. Perhaps go with a totally different style of "chronologically" tracking our family life. Last year and this year marked big changes for us, so it was good to have everything scrapped out.

"Travels in Japan" Scrapbook - finished volume 1, which covered 2002 - 2005. We took many trips during that time. I presented it to Yusuke for Father's Day and he totally loved it. He said, and I quote, "This is the best gift ever." I am still working on volume 2 (years 2006 - present) and will give it to him for his birthday at the end of the month.

Stick to budget and savings plan - Now that I am off work for the year, we cannot save as much each month, but we have quite a bit socked away in case we need it. I would like to find more ways to be frugal though. We will be able to make a couple of major purchases very soon though, and we are now talking about our options.

Keep house neat and clean - I am not sure Yusuke would agree with me, and it is hard with a toddler around, but I think everything looks good. I worked hard to clean many of the nooks and crannies before Luka was born, and now I am just coasting.

Enjoy maternity leave with new baby - that I am doing. Even though confinement is officially over, I am not planning to be as busy as I was when I had Ailin. Back then, I was so interested in joining and/or starting playgroups. Now, I just want to be left alone to focus on myself and my family. Besides, Ailin still has her Bilingual Kids Club nearly every week, so Luka can go to that with us.

Take online photography class - I am still looking for an appropriate one, but I am currently signed up with 3 online courses directly related to scrapbooking. Two of them are for learning how to use Photoshop Elements. The other one is for improving your storytelling techniques for journaling on your scrapbook pages. After these classes finish, I might take a class about making digital scrapbook pages. I am loving these classes!!!

Learn how to use Photoshop Elements - see above. I am taking 2 classes from Jessica Sprague's website. (see my list on the side under Links I Love). She is a great teacher and I am amazed at how much I am learning!! Omg, I never knew you could do all that stuff with photos! I might post some of my work from these classes in a few days.

Keep dining table, coffee table and counter free of junk - I think I am doing a good job of this, but here is what is on these surfaces as I write. A huge box of onions - a gift from Amy's garden; 2 sets of flashcards from Ailin's Reading in English program, 2 boxes of baby formula that I don't know what to do with and need to get rid of, Luka's nursing pillow, Okaeshi catalogs (those gift catalogs where you can order elaborate thank you gifts for all the people who give you baby gifts), Ailin's sketch book, Luka's stroller toys. Hmmm...perhaps I need to work on this goal!

Keep scrapbook/computer room neat and organized - I definitely need to work on this! Okay, I promise that by the end of the week, these two areas will be squeaky clean!

Teach Ailin more English songs and words - We recently started a reading in English program with her - it's based on the Teach your Baby to Read book by Glenn Doman. I made 100 flashcards for her, and we go through 2 or 3 sets of 5 each day. Each session is about 20 or 30 seconds, so it's really easy. As for the singing, we added a new element to her bedtime routine. After the 3 bedtime stories, we turn out the lights and cuddle up, then she requests about 5 or 6 songs and I sing them to her. She is very very strict about her requests, and if I make a mistake, she really lets me know about it! (I need to learn more songs.)

Be more sympathetic to Yusuke - I am trying to do this. He is feeling pretty low this week anyway.

Try to not get annoyed by Yusuke - Every day, this exact thought goes through my mind which is a good thing because then my natural feeling of annoyance immediately dissipates, and I think "How silly of me to get annoyed by that. He is only human. I am sure I totally annoy him too."

Walk Max every day - Yeah, as soon as my hips stop creaking and making noises, I'll assume that they have recovered enough from giving birth to an 8 pounder and I will walk Max. For now, Yusuke is doing it.

That's it! I should have added "Go to bed by 11pm every night."