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Cultured and dyed, I love the vibrant colors of these  button-shaped pearls.


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Popular Baby Names


And congratulations to all new moms who just gave birth!  Here is a small tip to help you rack your brains over naming your baby.

Social Security Administration reported a list of top baby names for 2013.  For girls, Sophia is America’s most popular baby name in the third straight year.  On the other hand, a new trend is forming in boy names.  Noah has risen to the most popular baby boy’s name for 2013, which is the first new name at number one since 1960 other than Jacob or Michael.

Here are the top ten boys and girls names for 2013:
  1. Noah
  2. Liam
  3. Jacob
  4. Mason
  5. William
  6. Ethan
  7. Michael
  8. Alexander
  9. Jayden
  10. Daniel
  1. Sophia
  2. Emma
  3. Olivia
  4. Isabella
  5. Ava
  6. Mia
  7. Emily
  8. Abigail
  9. Madison
  10. Elizabeth

The fastest riser in boys name in the top 1,000 was Jayceon, probably influenced by the popularity of  VH1’s cable reality series “Marrying The Game“.   For girls, Daleyza, a name in a popular Spanish-language cable TV series “Larrymania”, won the biggest jump.  The second fastest riser for boys was Milan, and for girls, Marjorie.

Hire a Paw

An employment ad says, ‘The position requires proficiency in typing (>80 wpm), computer programming, and bilingualism. No other qualifications needed.’

One passing dog saw the ad and applied for the position.

Hiring Personnel : “We cannot employ a dog.”

Dog : (pointed to the ad ‘No other qualifications needed.’)

Hiring Personnel : “Alright.  Type this document.”

Dog : (typed at the speed of 100 wpm.)

Hiring Personnel : (shocked) “Alright.  Now, try this programming.”

Dog : (finished in ten minutes.)

Hiring Personnel : (distressed, but soon smiled) “Good.  But this job is for a bilingual.  Sorry for you.”

Dog : “MEO~W

New Fashion in Pearl Necklaces

Though sometimes called “Grandmother’s boring pearls“, the classic strands are still the most popular pearl necklaces. White, round, princess length (18 inches), and strung on silk thread with knots between beads.

However, new eccentric styles of pearl strands are also gaining popularity nowadays. Dyed to all shades of different colors, oval or more irregular shaped pearls are used in new designs.

In this strand, I strung two different-colored rice-shaped freshwater cultured pearls with holes at one end. Also, I made it opera length, so I can wear it over my clothing.

Definitely non-traditional, but I love it nonetheless, or more so. Even when artificially colored, the pearls carry on their characteristic elegant sheen.

PC Games I Bought for My Kids

These days, kids, especially boys, practically grow up with games. When they were young, at least I had a choice which game they’d play.
These are the games I didn’t mind my kids playing and they also enjoyed.

Zoo Tycoon     This is a simulation game, in which you create a zoo. You have to optimize the environment for each animal. You learn a few things about animals and their favorite habitats. It’s a good game for animal lovers, but could get a little tedious later on. There’s a similar game called RollerCoaster tycoon, which is also fun to play. 

Zeus : Master of Olympus      This is a city building game with a setting of Ancient Greece. There are several other similar city building games, but I think this one is the most enjoyable. My kids picked up some names of Greek gods and heroes, and it triggered their interest in Greek Myth.

These are the educational games my kids actually played.

Zoombinis     This is a great game teaching kids logic and reasoning, and enjoyable at the same time. It requires some math skills to solve puzzles, and might be a little challenging for younger kids. Help your kids and you might enjoy playing it, too. There are a couple of sequels to this game, which are also worthwhile to play.

Learn to Play Chess with Fritz & Chesster     This game teaches kids how to play chess in a fun way. The first one in the series teaches basic rules of chess, and the second one teaches various strategies. My kids already knew the rules, so we only bought the second one.

Crazy Machines      In this game, you build machines to solve puzzles. This requires a great deal of creative thinking. Some of them are quite hard to solve, and the game does not give out solutions unless you solve it first, so sometimes it could be frustrating. My girl didn’t like it as much as my boy.

I know all these games are ancient compared to new console games, but they’re still worth looking into, if your children are still young and you’re looking for non-violent games.

Book Series for Early Graders

After learning phonics and graduating the leveled chapter books for beginning readers (HarperCollins I Can Read books, Scholastic Reader level books, Random House Step into Reading books, Puffin Easy to Read books, etc), the real fun in reading begins. This is the time children build up their lifelong love toward reading. Parent’s role here? Find good book series that your child becomes attached to.

My son’s favorites were the books in Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne. The author intertwined historical or scientific facts with exciting adventures so well, that my son enjoyed all the books in the series. Another good thing about the series is that there are so many books in the series and the author keeps writing.

He also loved Encyclopedia Brown the Boy Detective by Donald J. Sobol. Each book has many short episodes that the boy called encyclopedia solves mysteries. The story gives out clues on the way, so the reader can solve the mysteries together. I wished that there were more books in the series.

Another series he enjoyed reading was Cam Jansen Mysteries by David A. Adler. This girl with photographic memory solves mysteries in her school and neighborhood.


Cultured Pearl Choker

I made two chokers, one using freshwater cultured irregular pearls, and the other using Swarovski pearls.


Swarovski Pearl Choker




Swarovski pearl necklace has a more artificial but sophisticated look, while the cultured pearl one has a less refined, but more natural charm.

Which do you like better?

Fish You Might Encounter at Xel-Ha

Snorkeling is a fun sports a whole family can enjoy.   It could be more fun, if you know what to look for.  The followings are some of fish you might encounter during snorkeling at Xel-Ha in Cancun, Mexico.  Enjoy your snorkeling!

Barracudas are usually found in warm, tropical regions. Size varies from rather small to as large as 4-6 feet (1.2-1.8 meters) in the great barracuda. Barracudas are primarily fish eaters of smaller fishes. While probably the meanest looking fish in the ocean with a large mouth with many sharp teeth, they are usually only curious about divers and snorkelers and are not a real threat. They will not bite you unless provoked. Remain calm and do not antagonize the fish. But, they may sometimes mistake a shiny piece of jewelery for a small fish and may grab for it. So, you’ll probably want to leave your jewelries at home.

manta ray
Photo by James Watt

Manta rays are the largest rays and are closely related to sharks. The word manta is Spanish meaning blanket, which is a word that describes the appearance of these animals very well. Mantas are distributed worldwide and generally inhabit tropical seas. In average, they are about 20 feet wide and weigh up to 3000 pounds. These harmless rays have a short tail and no stinging spine. They are graceful swimmers using their fins to propel them through the water. They have no teeth. They have few natural predators, such as the shark or killer whale.

Sergeant Major
photo by Richard Ling /CC BY 2.0

The Sergeant Major or píntano is a large, colorful damselfish. This fish gets its common name “sergeant major” from the stripes that resemble the traditional insignia of the military rank. It grows to a length of about 15 cm (6 inches). Sergeant majors are found throughout the tropical reaches of the Atlantic, including off the south coast of the United States and Central America. They are often found on coral reefs at depths of between 1 and 12 meters. They lay their eggs in patches on a firm substrate and guard them vigorously until they hatch. They are popular aquarium fish, although their aggressively territorial nature can pose problems if not closely watched.

Photo by Brian Gratwicke /CC BY 2.0

The Blue Tang Surgeonfish are referred to as surgeonfish due to the very sharp, movable spines on either side of the tail that resemble surgeons’ scalpels. Do not try to grab these little guys. Adult blue tangs are deep blue to purplish-blue with a yellow caudal spine, and reach 39 cm in length. Blue tangs are marine reef-associated, and abundant in Florida, Bahamas, and the Caribbean Sea. In coral reefs, they live in holes and crevices where they are sheltered from predators while they sleep at night. Blue tangs live singly, in pairs, or in small groups of up to 10 or 12 individuals.

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