22 December 2006

Almost to the Finish Line

The Advent Candle is down to 22, 23, and 24.

There is only one more homemade Christmas card left to send.

The chocolate advent calendars from Windel Candy have just a few doors left to open (Grandma and Grandpa picked those up in Europe this fall; I'm sure the kids wish this could become an annual tradition at our house).

Only 7 thrums to go! I'm sick of thrummed mittens. They're so un-portable, what with all the little bits of wool (the thrums-to-be) to carry around. Plus the temperatures have been steadily in the 50s for the past couple of weeks, which isn't exactly thrum weather. Having said that, I'm alread considering my next thrum project, possibly thrum socks by Fleece Artist for my mom, who was quite impressed with the thrum concept and has perpetually cold feet (plus, bonus, if I'm ordering a kit from Fleece Artist anyway I'd have a pretty good excuse to get a Goldilocks shawl kit for myself).

Waldorf doll to finish. Kid1 decided she wanted a Waldorf doll for Christmas, but she wanted to make it herself. This is all her work so far. I'm going to crochet the wig cap using the mohair yarn the doll is propped up against, but that's the extent of my involvement (well, except answering questions -- I've done plenty of that, too).

And today features baking coffee cakes for neighbors. Also, joyously receiving package ordered from Magic Cabin OR driving to their order center (Ohio? Wisconsin?) and throttling the person who said I should select standard shipping to receive it in time for Christmas (it will be late afternoon before the UPS truck hits the neighborhood and I know which I'll be doing).

Merry Christmas, everyone! I'll not be back until sometime in the new year!

21 December 2006

Butter Cookies! (or, Why Santa Likes to Visit Our House)

This is the standard Santa-fare at our house, left out on Christmas Eve.

Quality of ingredients makes a huge difference! I tend towards white spelt flour and unsalted butter, mostly because those are a little fresher in our local stores.

2.5 c. white flour
1 c. granulated sugar
1 c. butter, softened
1 egg
1 tsp baking powder
2 Tblsp orange juice
1 Tblsp vanilla

In a 3qt mixing bowl combine flour, sugar, butter, egg, baking powder, orange juice and vanilla with an electric mixer. Beat at low speed, scraping sides of bowl often, until well mixed. Cover, chill 2-3 hours or until firm enough to be rolled. Roll out dough 1/3 at a time on a well floured surface to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut with 3 inch cookie cutters. Place cookies 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake near center of 400F oven for 6-10 minutes, or until edges are lightly browned. Cool completely before decorating. (Sprinkle colored sugar on before baking; add food colouring to dough before refrigerating.)

Frosting (enough to cover gobs of cookies, possibly 2 batches):

4 c. confectioners sugar
1/2 c. butter, softened
3-4 Tblsp milk
2 tsp vanilla

In a 1.5 qt. mixer bowl combine all ingredients. With an electric mixer beat at low speed, scraping sides of bowl often until frosting is fluffy. May be spread or used with decorator. Add food coloring as desired.

Two things that occur to me as I type this up: first, I still haven't found my good marble rolling pin a year after moving; second, I wonder if Santa has gone all gluten-free on us. I guess we can cover the GF issues by setting out some meringues, too, bearing in mind that if Santa chooses the meringues that leaves more butter cookies for me.

20 December 2006

Tuesday Teatime

To eat: Trader Joe's Patisserie Twists in cinnamon flavor. These are so sweet and sugary they were overwhelming. Kid1 said they reminded her of the little cinnamon twists from Taco Bell, but higher quality. Whatever. Not something I would purchase again.

To drink: Choice of tea. Kid1 chose Black Cherry Berry, while Kid2 opted for Rasberry Zinger, both by Celestial Seasonings.

To read: The Winter Solstice by Ellen Jackson (the book, not the website; unfortunately I didn't find the website until just now while looking for a link for the book; it looks pretty cool, doesn't it?).

When I got to the pages about sticking toothpicks in an orange to show how the earth rotates towards and away from the sun Kid2 commented, "I read those pages and didn't understand them." So we decided to skip reading over them again, and come back to it later when we had some citrus fruit around to work with, having eaten all of the grapefruit and clementines in the house.

19 December 2006

RightStart Geometry

The continuing saga of our adventures using RightStart Geometry and RightStart B. I have an 11yo and a 7yo who have average math ability.The 11yo has done Miquon, Singapore, RightStart Transitions, Level D and Level E; RightStart has saved her from a life a math phobia.

On Tuesdays I upload an update of what we did in math for the week.

RightStart Geometry:

Lesson 84 Rotating

The lesson explains what rotation means in a mathematical sense, then has the student draw various rotations.

On one hand, the directions say to “measure only the 2.5 cm line,” deriving the rest of the lines and angles from your knowledge of how to draw geometric figures. On the other hand, the directions say to “construct every line accurately. Don’t guess.” Well. Tears of frustration ensue during the final rotation, which for some reason is wonky. I know the feeling from various projects I’ve done.

I am not allowed to help. I think she’s caught on that it takes me awhile to get up to speed on these lessons, as she’s journeying to places I either haven’t been for a long time, or perhaps never visited before. It occurs to me that it would’ve been a good idea to go through all the lessons myself a bit ahead of her.

18 December 2006

In Sickness and in Health

Saturday night we went to see The Big Guy. The line was and hour and a half long.

Santa chatted with every child for 3-5 minutes. He had a wonderful, deep voice -- as soothing as Jim Weiss, but lower. He exuded calm.

He's telling Kid1 that she has a very important role in the family, that of big sister, with a little sister who looks up to her. And then he discussed the true meaning of Christmas with the kids.

Kid2 put it all together -- the Old World look, his demeanor, the attitude he radiated, the way her feet and legs (which hurt from standing on bricks for an hour and a half) stopped hurting as soon as she stood next to him, possibly the way the elves were still cheerful after hours of dealing with the public. She whispered to me, "This is really St. Nicholas! That guy back in Ohio was just dressing up as Santa Claus to help him out. This is the real thing."


Sunday morning the red velour Christmas dresses debuted in all their glory. Except I forgot to take pictures.

Sunday night Kid2 put hers back on, Kid1 dressed in white on top/black on bottom, and we went to the Christmas Concert at our church (Kid1 was in it; her choir sang with the adult choir and orchestra, who were all in Black Tie). It was startlingly good. Really.

Afterwards was a cookie reception. My contribution was Peppermint-Chocolate Chip Meringues (naturally gluten-free!):

4 large egg whites (if they have any yolk at all they won't whip well; just sayin')
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
pinch of salt (I used coarse)
1 cup granulated sugar
6 candy canes
1/2 cup mini-chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 225F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Unwrap candy canes and place in large ziploc bag. Beat with pan until they're crushed into small pieces (ideally, assign this task to children and insert earplugs).

Beat egg whites, cream of tartar and salt with a mixer until soft peaks form (about 2 minutes). Reduce speed to low and add sugar 1 tblsp at a time, beating a few seconds after every addition. Increase beater speed to high, and beat until stiff, glossy peaks form. Fold in crushed candy canes and chocolate chips.

Drop by well rounded tablespoons onto prepared baking sheets, about an inch apart (these don't spread while baking). Bake both sheets for 1 hour, then switch positions in the oven (top rack to bottom rack) and bake 1 more hour. Turn off oven; allow oven to cool completely before removing (I left them until the next morning since I was busy and didn't need the oven). Store airtight. Makes about 32-36 crunchy, sticky mouthfuls of peppermint and chocolate.

And this morning? Small child with sore throat and 102F temperature. I think the late nights and sugar intake might've had something to do with that. So today's agenda includes lots of chamomile tea, snuggling up for stories, and watching Miracle on 34th Street.

14 December 2006

Drowning in a Sea of Red

In the lower right corner: a card from my Secret Pal, which also had a sweet little charm inscribed with the word "Inspire" (perfect sentiment for a mom). (And, yes, I finally figured it out after she pretty much said, "Yoohoo, it's me!" while waving wildly.)

Then, of course, are the mittens. Mitten number 4 is on the needles. Fourth mitten syndrome has set in. I only work on this when I'm away from home. Because when I'm away from home I can't sew....

Yes, the main pile of red is 2 velour dresses which should have been completed 2 weeks ago. Since taking the photo I have wrestled them down to the handwork of hemming (sorry, no machine hemming on bias-cut velour in this house -- I'm not that crazy). I've alternated between loving and hating this velour. I'll be sewing along thinking, "Ooooh, so soft! Pretty, pretty softness! I must making myself something out of this," and vowing to never put another zipper in velour again in my life (I have done at least 5 zipper insertions between the 2 dresses; mind you, each dress only has one zipper, but the velour kept squirming away from it's designated spot in spite of massive amounts of hand basting).

Company coming for the weekend tomorrow. I am up to my ankles in little velour fluffs. Think it can pass as Christmas decor?

13 December 2006

Happy St. Lucia Day!

Cool link with more info about St. Lucia here.

And, check it out, at the bottom of that page is a link to this crown of candles. Let me tell you, Kid1 would adore having one of those crowns. Of course, the whole idea is that the daughter rises early in the morning before it's light out, puts on the crown and serves her parents coffee and lussekatter. Problem with scenario (other than the fact that I can't stand coffee and have no interest in whipping up a batch of lussekatter due to lack of time and saffron): Kid1 never ever gets up that early; Kid2 is erratic about early morning. It is currently 7:45a.m., the sky is light and bright, and not a daughter is stirring.

So. I think our St. Lucia festivities will occur at tea time. We will have hot chocolate and cookies (something from Trader Joe's). We will read about St. Lucia/St. Lucy. The girls will probably dress in white, but we will not put candles on our heads.

12 December 2006


The Cap That Is Not a Chemo Cap is on its way to Mexico now. It's flying on a private jet, which is a pretty nice way to travel. I'm not sure what mail service is like between here and Mexico.

I can tell you this, though: mail service between here and Canada is certainly interesting. I can send a Secret Pal package to New Zealand in less time than it takes to get a package to Canada.

For example, this ornament just went out yesterday:

for the Secret Pal swap over at TheDenimJumper. Who knows when it will get there -- one week? two weeks?

Obviously, this is blowing my Secret Pal cover (if my Secret Pal reads this blog, which who knows; the SiteMeter stopped working when I switched to BloggerBeta and I've not worked up enough of a caring attitude to change it), but what the heck. The official end of the swap was yesterday. Plus, I have this uneasy feeling it will be mashed to perfect flatness somewhere between here and there.

My kids were so excited when I started working on this. "Hey, are you making another fairy?" It's been years since I got out the painted beads, the pipe cleaners, the wool felt and roving and embroidery floss. These days I also need to pull out the magnifying eyeglasses and a strong light. Sigh.

The basic idea comes from Sally Mavor's Felt Wee Folk , except without an acorn cap. Instead, she has a halo of crocheted metallic floss, and a metallic thread loop going up through her head for hanging on the tree. Also, in a bold move (for me) I didn't wrap her legs in floss. I used strips of white roving. Not that you can see it under her skirt, but it's there, and it looks all hazy and angelic.

So, if you receive a package that contains this little angel, or something that looks like maybe it used to be this little angel, then ta-da it's from me.

11 December 2006

Road Trip

This past weekend we went to visit MrV's family, who live about this far away:

Cap of Rowan Calmer in black, knit on size 5 double points. Actually, the ribbing and a few inches of the body were done; I just finished the body and did the decreases on the trip. The cap is for a friend on MrV's in Mexico who has cancer and has shaved his head, hence the cotton yarn. (For the record, it isn't a chemocap. MrV was very specific about that. Not A Chemocap, got it?)

We stayed and visited for about half a thrummed mitten:

plus time spent eating, going to a Christmas show , eating, opening gifts, snacking, playing games, grazing, etc.

Then we came home, a trip that took the rest of the mitten and on into the next one.

Now it's time to set the needles aside and send out the cards, wrap more presents, mail more presents, finish some Christmas sewing, and make some cookies.

07 December 2006

Counting the Days

Just to give you insight into how things work here ...

When it's your turn to take the figure out of the pocket and put it on the picture, should you be allowed to put it anywhere. For example, should you be allowed to put a cow up in the air over the stable? Or does your freedom to do this intrude on your family's freedom to enjoy a somewhat normal-looking Christmas scene?

06 December 2006

O Christmas Tree!

The lady behind me commented, " 'Tannenbaum' is Latin for 'Christmas tree'. So now he knows another language -- Latin!"

I couldn't help it. I just HAD to turn around and correct her. "No, it isn't Latin. 'Tannenbaum' is German."

Because I might be bad at Latin and clueless at German, but I know my Christmas carols.

Kid2 is in the middle of the photo in the red outfit.

05 December 2006

RightStart Geometry

The continuing saga of our adventures using RightStart Geometry and RightStart B. I have an 11yo and a 7yo who have average math ability.The 11yo has done Miquon, Singapore, RightStart Transitions, Level D and Level E; RightStart has saved her from a life a math phobia.

On Tuesdays I upload an update of what we did in math for the week.

RightStart Geometry:

Lesson 83 Reflecting

This lesson zips by quickly and painlessly. We do not have the optional Reflecta or Mira or GeoReflector. I suspect that Kid1 was able to visualize what would happen if she had used them.

Frankly, my only contact with the material is hearing Kid1 tell Kid2 that it’s an easy lesson. The drawing portion is much quicker than the tangrams of earlier lessons.

01 December 2006

December! Snow! Advent!

We've had about a week of sunny days with highs around 70F (21C). We were out playing softball and running around in Tshirts. No holiday mood at all, not even a little. But now that it's December, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas! High of about 25F (around -12.7C, I think). Snow! Time to get out Christmas stuff!

We got out the Advent candle (half way down the page if you follow the link), ready to burn down another number each day. We got out our copy of A Light in the Lantern (second book on linked page), ready to read.

And, I'm still knitting frantically on the thrummed mittens. They were to be a Christmas gift, but with the current weather, well, they're needed now. We've already been sledding twice today (yes, my kids that can't get up before about 9am, who sit around in their jammies half the morning, they were over at The Big Hill by 8:30 this morning, making the first runs down the hill).

We have worked on Christmas cards. We have Christmas CDs playing. We've been watching ... umm, well, we've been watching Star Trek Next Generation and Deep Space 9, but we have gotten out the Christmas DVDs and videos, so, you know, we could maybe watch one if they play an episode we don't like.

Must go shovel snow.

29 November 2006

Feeling the Secret Pal Love

Part A:

Last Friday Kid2 took me for a walk in the woods, showing me the places they like to go. When we got back home I found a card in the mail. No return address, but I thought the handwriting was pretty obviously my friend Christine's (although it wasn't postmarked from Indy, which struck me as weird).

I opened it and found a sweet card from some non-Christine person, containing this quote from Jimmy Carter:

"It is good to realize that if love and peace can prevail on Earth, and if we can teach our children to honor nature's gifts, the joys and beauties of the outdoors will be here forever." Signed, Your Secret Pal

Wow, what a great thing to read after being out in nature with your child! What a pick-me-up.

Part B:

Yesterday there was a box on my doorstep. I opened it to find an absolute extravaganza!

The points are mine, but she had used red bubble wrap. Did you know there was such a thing as red bubble wrap? Am I the only one so clueless about how to ship Christmas-themed prezzies?

From left to right we see:

Jamaica Rumbonen by van Dungen -- chocolates filled with Jamaican Rum. These are a hoot. Again, something I'd never know existed.

Domino magazine. I'm a magazine addict. Buying glossy magazines at the newstands is my current self-soothing behavior. As a matter of fact, Sunday (after the relatives left) I went to Barnes and Noble and bought 3. Not this issue of Domino, though! Woohoo!

Stash Chamomile tea, beloved by our family, and an excellent choice.

Huge tower of treats. At first I thought it was all butter cookies, because there was a picture of butter cookies on the label, and also because I mentioned butter cookies about 27 times in the "things I like" part of the Secret Pal survey (subtle I'm not). But, wow, it's all sorts of treats -- 2 kinds of cookies, candy, and hot chocolate mix.

Handmade ornament, in this case a darling crocheted snowman. A handmade ornament is required for this swap, and this one is wonderful. I picture hanging it on our tree for years to come, and thinking back to TheDenimJumper and all the gang there.

A Terry Pratchett book, Witches Abroad . Tery Pratchett is one of my favorite authors, and I get giggly every time I even look at this book. I can't wait to read it.

A box of bonbons from Stam Chocolaterie , which are sooooooo good I thought my mouth would explode with pleasure. Really. You know what was really clever about this whole thing? That huge stack of treats caught my kids' attention, so they wanted to open it right away (we've been shovelling the butter cookies in our mouths like popcorn). And they totally forgot about the little box of Stam bonbons, so they didn't try to wangle one away from me (which would probably turn into an ugly little scene, if you know what I mean, because these are NOT going to be shared; I don't care if Santa himself appears at my doorstep this very moment and says, "No presents for you, Gail, unless I get a Stam bonbon," he's just going to have to drive his sled to someplace that sells them).

I am absolutely floored by the coolness of this Secret Pal package. Hope yours are equally fun.

28 November 2006

Knitters who Homeschool, and Homeschoolers who Knit

I was thinking about Mk.Km's comment about finding a knitter who also homeschools. My first thought was that, gees, there are tons of homeschooler-knitters. After all, I hang around with ... with ... well, okay, I can only think of one homeschooler-knitter in real life, and maybe I don't actually know her name (although I know all of her kids' names and ages, what they're up to in homeschool, what's the next knitting project she's thinking about doing, and, of course, where her daughter takes dance). And I have a friend who homeschools and crochets, but she's in Ohio. So. Ummm. Maybe the homeschool-knitting thing isn't quite so popular right here in St. Louis, or maybe I haven't gotten to know that many people here yet.

On the Internet, though, AHA! I can definitely find homeschooler-knitters on the Internet. The first that spring to mind, of course, are Poppins, JoVE, and Mary, who blog about both topics (and more).

Then there are the bloggers who maintain separate blogs for their knitting and homeschooling. This is more organized than I could ever be, but Penny manages it here and here. I've noticed that her friend ZooMom does the same.

I know this list isn't exhaustive by any means. I'll often be reading a blog about homeschooling and find mention of knitting, or a blog about knitting and realize that the family homeschools. Any other favorites out there?

And, a gratuitous knitting shot, since the temperature is supposed to drop about 40 degrees F on Thursday:

Thrummed mitten kit from Camilla Valley Farm Weavers' Supply. The yarn is Peace Fleece in Ukranian Red. The kids wanted red mittens like Laura and Mary had in Little House in the Big Woods. The thrums were my idea. I'm using a combination of the pattern that came with the kit, and the pattern in Interweave Knits. I wonder if I'll get them done by the time it snows.

27 November 2006

Thanksgiving Recap

I love reading the blog posts that have all the wonderful pictures of Thanksgiving -- beautiful shots of food, decorations, family and friends.

However, we didn't take any photos at all. So, it's just a verbal recap around here.

Cool things we did:

Archery target shooting
Walks in the woods
Kid2 learned how to play 4 square
Playing catch and softball (wow, AuntD is talented at softball! She should go pro!)
Playing Uno Attack
Eating lunch on the back porch for 2 days in a row, since it was sunny and in the 70s
Moving the piano into the living room over the new wooden floors without dinging them
Raking up 2 huge piles of leaves to jump in

And, of course, the usual Thanksgiving day stuff of eating lots of wonderful food with relatives we rarely see, followed by sitting around knitting a sock while engaging in family gossip.

Now everyone has cleared out of here, and we can reconnect with reality.

21 November 2006

RightStart Geometry

The continuing saga of our adventures using RightStart Geometry and RightStart B. I have an 11yo and a 7yo who have average math ability.The 11yo has done Miquon, Singapore, RightStart Transitions, Level D and Level E; RightStart has saved her from a life a math phobia.

On Tuesdays I upload an update of what we did in math for the week.

RightStart Geometry:

Leson 80 Pizza Problems

The lesson looks at unit costs. It also looks at ordering pizza based on cost per square inch. Of course, this is a silly way to order pizza, since no one eats it by the inch. Better to figure the price per slice, taking into account the relative thickness of the crust and how generous the restaurant is with the toppings. But I suppose it makes for a fun worksheet.

Lesson 81 Revisiting Tangrams

We love tangrams, and have 2 sets of plastic ones. These problems are simple, yet tedious in that the student needs to draw the various parts of the tangram set. It is much easier to work through the lesson with plastic tangrams, by the way, instead of copying of the shapes onto cardstock and then trying to manipulate the cardstock tangrams.

The second worksheet shows shapes, then asks for several ways to form each shape. The answers on the answer sheet are not exhaustive by any means. I notice Kid1 struggling to come up with a final solution for the pentagon. I pause while passing by and say, “Why don’t you try this?” While she protests, “Mommy, that’s not going to work!” I come up with 2 more solutions (MrV has told me if I ever need to re-enter the workforce I should consider package engineering).

At the end of the worksheet, the student is asked which shapes cover the greatest area. The answer is based on the tangram shapes used to make the various shapes shown. Fun lesson!

Lesson 82 Aligning Objects

Working again with the shapes of the tangrams, this time learning to align right, align left, align top, and align bottom. It’s an easy concept, but all the drawing is very tedious. I suggest to Kid1 she split it up over a couple of days, since it takes over an hour.

20 November 2006


I was getting dressed for church yesterday in a black skirt and white top, and it occurred to me that I should wear something gold (because, after all, Purdue had just beat IU in the Old Oaken Bucket game on Saturday, so it would be very appropriate to wear Old Gold and Black, particularly since there are IU alums attending this church). A gold shawl would be just about perfect, y’know. Except that I don’t have a gold shawl.

So, I wore the same ol’ Morehouse Merino Melody Shawl in the Waterlilies colorway.

And when we got to church, there was Mrs.S in a new shawl -- the Bird’s Nest Shawl from Cheryl Oberle’s Folk Shawls , which she had knit in a beautiful silk/cashmere blend. So, you know, I have the same ol’ shawl on, and she has this swanky shawl on, all shiny and new.

And it’s sort of fun having someone in church that Knits, y’know. But, on the other hand, Mrs.S is one of those people who can be discussing something innocuous like sock patterns and yarn shops, and all of a sudden she’s ferretted out of you that you played tenor recorder in a Renaissance ensemble way back in college, and did you know that a group of them sometime play as an ensemble for church? And she poo-poo’s the news that you seem to have lost your pearwood soprano recorder several household moves ago (no problem; she has a rosewood soprano and a pearwood soprano, and a pearwood tenor, and an alto, too, for that matter, just in case you want to learn alto, and you’re welcome to borrow one) and also poo-poo’s the news that the only ensemble you’ve played in is a homeschool co-op group of kids that you taught to play stuff like Mary Had a Little Lamb, because, y’know, how are you going to get back in the swing of playing more advanced pieces unless something forces you to make the stretch (since she’s just decided we should all get together and work up a number for Easter; and I’m already starting to feel queasy at the thought).


So, in the meantime, I was looking at the shawl Poppins is knitting. Hmmm, I had thought about knitting one of those last spring, but Colorsong Yarn (my favorite Fleece Artist vendor) didn’t offer it in a color I wanted. But, check this out -- they do have it in gold of all things. Eery coincidence, right? Almost like it’s waiting there for me to swoop in and buy it?

I’m still deciding. Right now we’re busy filling our Heifer Ark:

We’re putting in “found” money (mostly change, but I also found a $5 bill in a parking lot). We counted the number of faucets in our house, and put in a quareter for each one to show our gratitude for running water. We counted the pairs of shoes we own, and put in a dime for each pair (this was prompted by the pictures of barefoot children on Ryan’s blog; the dime each was to help make it affordable for Kid1 and Kid2, who get a skimpy allowance). Today we’ll count the electrical lights in our house and put in money for each, as a way of giving thanks for electricity.

It sort of seems like maybe I should put in some money for each shawl I already own, and get over the Shawl Envy, y’know. That’s what a big person would do. I'm just not sure it's what I will do, though.

17 November 2006

Small accomplishments

Dulaan socks, finished this week:

I was proud of fnishing them, until I read that some knitters believe we should be knitting a sock a day.

Oh well. They're made from Lopi Lite, and are just a wee bit small for Kid1 (who tried them on as a test, and declared them wonderfully snuggly).

On a background of red velour from Sewzanne's. I had this wonderful idea that I would make Christmas dresses for the girls using my new serger. I didn't factor in that a) I wouldn't have time to mess with sewing, considering we're still trying to finish up floor-related renovations, and b) the fabric choices around here suck. Sewzanne's to the rescue! I'd never ordered from her before. This stuff is really beautiful, and arrived here promptly. Now it's just a matter of finding time to sew it up.

14 November 2006

RightStart Geometry

The continuing saga of our adventures using RightStart Geometry and RightStart B. I have an 11yo and a 7yo who have average math ability.The 11yo has done Miquon, Singapore, RightStart Transitions, Level D and Level E; RightStart has saved her from a life a math phobia.

On Tuesdays I upload an update of what we did in math for the week.

RightStart Geometry:

Lesson 78 Finding the Area of a Circle

TYPO ALERT! At the end of the lesson is a box which has various values for pi. The student is to compare the accuracy of these values. One of the values given is 335 over 113; it should read 355 over 113. The correct values are mentioned in the lesson, so it’s pretty easy to catch.

Other than that, the lesson deals with finding areas of squares and areas of circles. Morgan makes a return appearance, setting a round watering system in a square field -- what percent of the field is watered? (This is a good time to see how well your student remembers how to calculate percents.) I continue to believe that Morgan needs to get over this obsession with sticking circles in the middle of things.

Lesson 79 Finding More Areas

TYPO ALERT! On the second worksheet, problem 5 says to “Find the length of a side of a square that has twice the perimeter of the square below. Draw the square.” Then problem 6 says to “Find the length of a side of a square that has twice the perimeter of the square below. Draw the square.” Problem 6 should read “a square that has twice the area of the square below.”

Also, we could not get the answer on the answer sheet for problem 2. Using the same measures and values, we came up with a percent covered by the design as 70.7% rather than 70.1% (unless we set pi as 3.17 ... yes, out of curiosity, I worked the problem backwards).

No new information is presented in the lesson. It’s just a bunch of problems. The problems are well written (other than the typos). Kid1 remarked that she would like a calculator with a pi key. MrV has one, of course, but I think for now we’ll keep tapping in 3.14.

13 November 2006

The Anti-NaBloPoMo

Ever since NaBloPoMo started on Nov.1 I've had an overwhelming urge to not post. I think the NoBloPoMo bloggers are sucking all the creativity out of my brain as I sleep.

However, many of my favorite blogs continue to have wonderful posts (perhaps the writers of those blogs wrap their heads in tinfoil at night, or perhaps they are simply so creative that they have oodles of create-ability to spare).

As a matter of fact, By Sun and Candlelight has a wonderful Loveliness Fair going on, with link after link of creative Christmas crafting ideas. Oo la la! You really must visit it!

10 November 2006

Martinmas, the condensed version

This tends to be a busy time of year for us, so Martinmas get short shrift. We just do a speedy version. No lanterns will be made.

I count the St. Louis-style Trick-or-Treating as Martinmas-based. The kids in south St. Louis county traditionally tell a joke or recite a poem or sing a song for their treat. I suspect that custom comes from the German immigrants long, long ago -- their Martinmas traditions probably melted into the US Halloween traditions.

We will eat ham sandwiches. We usually don't eat pork, much to the chagrin of Kid2, so this counts as festive. I will not be fixing goose. My understanding is that pigs or geese are the meat of choice for the day.

I have been busy looking through the MotheringDotCom Holiday Helper database to see where I can donate "half of my cloak", so to speak. The kids have selected some gently used toys (actually unused) to send to other kids. I have selected some yarn to send to a mom-in-need. And we have discussed what items will be appropriate to purchase for the family we're sending stuff to. We also found a family who requested homeschool books ... oh, my! A chance to clear out some of the excess curriculum and books!

09 November 2006

No Comment

Lately I have been unable to comment on Blogger blogs. I realize there's the entire Beta issue, but I haven't even been able to make anonymous comments.

Yesterday Blogger wouldn't allow me to make a comment on my own blog. Well, now, hmmmm.

To answer Weaver's question, I can plug both the serger and the sewing machine in, but I can only fit one at a time on the end of the table. So I use the serger, move it off the table to the floor, pick up the sewing machine (which weighs a log, let me assure you -- it's an old Vigorelli, built like a tank), use the sewing machine, set it back to the floor, pick up the serger, etc. etc. It sort of makes a little weight-lifting routine built right into my sewing. Yeeha!

I find I don't get interrupted any more often when I break flow like that, by the way. My family interrupts me right smackdab in the middle of whatever I'm doing anyway. For example, between typing the word "anyway" in that last sentence and typing the period after it, I had a three minute conversation about the possible location of the good magnifying glass. I will now attempt to click on "publish" before any other interuptions ....

08 November 2006

Still recovering from the latest home improvement project

After 3 days of severe pounding, we have a floor.

We have no baseboards. But we have a floor. We have no furniture moved back into the empty rooms (because of the baseboard situation) but we have a floor.

I would dearly love to get going on sewing the Christmas dresses, but the dining room table seems to be missing. I usually cut out the fabric on the dining room table. I also use the end of it for the sewing machine and serger. But, alas, no dining room table, so no sewing.

On the other hand, it makes a great area to lay out Base 10 cards in nice, neat rows. Oh, baby, you can really stretch out and do some 4-digit addition now!

(For the record, the floor isn't on such a wild slope. The photographer was maybe skating across the floor when she took this picture.)

07 November 2006

RightStart Geometry

The continuing saga of our adventures using RightStart Geometry and RightStart B. I have an 11yo and a 7yo who have average math ability.The 11yo has done Miquon, Singapore, RightStart Transitions, Level D and Level E; RightStart has saved her from a life a math phobia.

On Tuesdays I upload an update of what we did in math for the week.

RightStart Geometry:

Lesson 73 The Amazing Nine-Point Circle

“In 1822 a German mathematician, Karl Feuerbach, showed that the nine-point circle is tangent to the inscribed circle. [....] Because of his work, this circle is known in Germany as the Feuerbach circle.”

So, folks in Germany apparently sit around talking about the Feuerbach circle, eh? Shoot, I don’t believe I’ve ever heard of this before. Given all of the history (two Frenchmen did the original proof) I’m not sure how I missed out. Hmmm.

Kid1 has problems keeping track of what she is looking for. I am called upon to explain that XO is a line segment rather than an angle, for example. Over the course of the next few lessons she will get better at this, I’m sure.

Lesson 74 Drawing Arcs

Kid1 is content drawing hearts, interstate signs, radiation warning signs, and a gothic arch. Math meets art. What could be better?

Lesson 75 Angles ‘n Arcs

The lesson teaches inscribed angles and intercepted arcs. It bandies terms like “chord”. I’ve never been too terribly fond of this stuff, and Kid1 seems to be following in my footsteps. Mostly I hope she figures it out and doesn’t ask me too many questions.

Lesson 76 Arc Length

Problem 1 on the worksheet involves finding the length of an arc to the nearest tenth of a centimeter. Both Kid1 and I measure the angle from the center of the circle to the arc ends repeatedly; we do NOT get the measure shown in the answer sheet. This means that Kid1 can NOT get the same final answer for the length of the arc as the answer sheet.. Her work shows the same steps, though -- the answer sheets give the steps for figuring out each problem.

Problem 2 features a gothic arch. I sort of blanch when I see it, but Kid1 acts like everyone knows the way a gothic arch is formed, for heaven’s sake. She explains it to me; I immediately forget.

Problem 4 is finding the distance from Earth’s poles to the equater. It reminds me of something out of Challenge Math, or some other such math book. It takes a moment for Kid1 to “get” that working in 3D isn’t too terribly different from working in 2D.

Problem 5 is a landscaping problem. I tend to dislike these, mostly since I studied landscaping in college and find myself questioning why the heck someone would want to put that in their yard. I mean, really, why would Morgan want to put bricks around a circular garden? Why not something else? What type of bricks? Will she be interplanting moss between the bricks? Will she be levelling these so she can mow easily around it? And how did she end up running out of bricks? Did she not plan? If that’s the case (that she didn’t plan for how big a circle she needed to make) it’s entirely possible that she did not plan well for plant spacing (a pet peeve of mine).

On the bright side, Morgan is working with the metric system, so when she runs short by .7 meters it’s easy to figure out how many bricks she needs (although Kid1 points out that the inside of the brick circle is a different measure than the outside, since bricks aren’t actually wedge shaped -- woohoo, that’s my girl!).

After finishing problem 3 (trefoils and quatrefoils, which are apprently as easy as gothic arches; problem 3 falls at the end for Kid1 because of the way the problems are laid out on the page), there is an option of writing a paper on the metric system. We have discussed the metric system some during the course of the lesson. Kid1 declines writing a paper.

Somewhere in the course of this lesson I realize that she needs a refresher on multiplying fractions.

Lesson 77 Area of a Circle

For the second work sheet the student figures out the width of a parallelogram as it relates to the diameter of a circle. The width is equivalent to half the circle’s diameter, but Kid1 is mortally offended that the width is therefor pi r. She says it’s just plain wrong -- she agrees that it is half of 2pi r, but feels that saying “pi r” is somehow vile and unnatural.

You can imagine what happens when she has to cut up the circle and lay it on top of the parallelogram ... the parallelogram has a height of r ... she is supposed to give the area of the circle ... sure enough, she writes” r pi times r”. She refuses to call it pi r squared. Whatever. When she was young she was mortally offended that the indefinite article used before a word that begins with a vowel is "an", and vowed never to use it as long as she lived, and to strive to convert others to her way of thinking. This is likely to be another such case.

31 October 2006


Floor guy just called. Is it okay if they come today and start ripping up the floor?

(It was supposed to be later this week.)

My new Halloween costume: Mom on overload. Too much to cope with.

Blogging may resume in a few days, after I've recovered from the shock. The one positive thing about this is that it's Halloween, so there just might be enough chocolate in the house to get me through this.

27 October 2006

House Work

New floor:

Old floors:

We're hiring someone to do the actual installation. The wisdom of this became apparent when MrV opened the top box and started classifying each individual piece of wood as to where he thought it would look best: "I think this one we should put this distance from the stairs; I don't like this one, and maybe they could put it in the closet." Lordy, it would take us a year to try various layouts to optimize the "design". The crew we hired estimated 1.5 days.

The fact that someone else is actually installing the floor doesn't mean that we get off the hook from doing much work. We have to move all the furniture out of the living room and dining room (this means finding some place for it all) and ripping up the old floor.

Which is a long, roundabout way of saying that not much knitting or sewing is going on.

25 October 2006

Family Portrait

I wanted to wear swimsuits and snorkels, but I was voted down by kids who wanted to WEAR HATS.

Wow, the original looked okay, but now that I've uploaded it onto Blogger it just sort of shouts "This Woman is Frazzled!"

Nothing like blogging to learn new things about yourself. I've just realized I need a trip to Oahu. Solo.

24 October 2006

RightStart Geometry and a tiny bit of RightStart B

The continuing saga of our adventures using RightStart Geometry and RightStart B. I have an 11yo and a 7yo who have average math ability.The 11yo has done Miquon, Singapore, RightStart Transitions, Level D and Level E; RightStart has saved her from a life a math phobia.

On Tuesdays I upload an update of what we did in math for the week.

RightStart Geometry:

Lesson 68 Circle Designs

This looks like a cool, easy lesson. Except that once Kid1 starts working on the first worksheet she discovers that the circle design, with a designated radius of 60mm, doesn’t fit on the page. She is highly annoyed. The second worksheet had designs using a radius of 30mm. Hmmmm. It occurs to her that the first worksheet has a typo.

She does both worksheets using circles with 30mm radii. It works. But it’s still ... annoying.

Lesson 69 Rounding Edges with Tangents

I don’t believe I’ve ever learned the official way to round a corner using a tangent. I always just sort of eyeballed it and guessed. Kid1 starts to ask me how to do something; I gamely start drawing parallels and perpendiculars (with no clue where, exactly, I’m headed). It becomes clear to her what she is to do. Thank goodness. I hope she’s around when her younger sister gets to this lesson, because I’m lost.

Lesson 70 Tangent Circles

“Oh, good. I’ve been waiting for this lesson!” Apparently she had peeked ahead, and was anticipating drawing a trefoil, quatrefoil, spiral and yin-yang symbol.

During the lesson she stumbles somewhat on drawing the spiral. By the time she reads aloud and explains to me her question she figures out what she needs to do (whew! I just dodged another bullet!).

I had not paid much attention to the equipment needed for Geometry, and thought we had the appropriate compass. We have the Safe-T Compass used for lower levels of RightStart; these lessons really need the mmArc Compass. Kid1 manages to muddle through (although she thinks the spiral would’ve turned out better with the mmArc Compass). I’ve noticed that Hobby Lobby has a lot of this equipment in their drafting section; I’ll try to get by there to see if they stock the mmArc Compass.

Lesson 71 Bisecting Angles

I always thought that it was fun to bisect angles. Kid1 shares my enthusiasm. This is an easy, fun lesson. She asks me no questions, but if she had I could’ve answered -- I love this stuff.

Lesson 72 Perpendicular Bisectors

The lesson flows smoothly. I have no contact with it whatsoever. It’s an odd feeling after all those intense one-on-one lessons in earlier levels.

RightStart B:

We have started back up with RightStart B, pretty much right where we left off. Really, though, I haven't been keeping track of what we do day-to-day. I'll try to get back to it. Frankly, by the time we finish the lesson I'm pretty much mathed-out for the day, and don't care to think about it any longer (fortunately, Kid2 isn't catching this attitude -- she thinks it's all great fun).

19 October 2006

Socktoberfest: Stash Flash Edition

Last week the suggestion was posted to flash your sock yarn stash for Socktoberfest. And I do have a bit of a sock yarn stash. It's to the left:

During the course of the week, though, I started getting all existential about "what is 'sock' stash? Can we truly differentiate? What criteria should we use?" The whole Dulaan-knitting-prompted these thoughts.

You see, I was merrily knitting along on Dulaan socks with that blue yarn in the front left. Cute little socks. Oh yeah. But the thought crossed my mind: "Would my kids go sledding in these socks?" Sledding is cold, but not as cold as Mongolia. And sledding is about 2 blocks away from here, so you can practically run over to The Hill, take a couple of runs down, and run back home without even putting on a hat. And yet, the blue socks were too wimpy to function as sledding socks. What was I thinking, knitting them up for freezing Mongolian children, who don't have a warm home waiting for them 2 blocks away?

So, those socks (and the accompanying pile of sock yarn) have been ditched. I discovered a skein of red heavy worsted Farm Yarn from Little Turtle Knits. This is the sort of stuff that sneers at cold weather, by golly. It's knitting up into some really righteous winter socks.

And I also discovered a pattern for socks out of Lopi Lite, right there on the suggested-patterns-for-Dulaan-list . I had some here to make a felted bag, but really, do I really need yet another felted bag? Heck, no. Throw that Lopi Lite on the new, improved sock yarn pile!

In the middle of the picture is a display of my sock knitting books: Sensational Socks, Twisted Sisters Sock Workbook, and Folk Socks. I also have sock patterns in several other knitting books, and a slew of back issues of Interweave Knits and Vogue Knitting that contain sock patterns. I've never used a single one of them. I always end up pulling a pattern off the internet for free.

Socktoberfest and Dulaan have me rethinking what I want to accomplish regarding sock knitting, and how I want to accomplish it. It's good to step back and look at these piles, and think "why?"

17 October 2006

Tuesday Teatime

Today's teatime featured a fruit juice beverage made by Kid2 out of her Brownie Try-It book, thus completing her requirements for Make it, Eat it. This is her first completed Try-It, and she was truly excited to finish it up.

We also had angel food cake from Trader Joe's, with sides of Soy Delicious Carob Mint (fruit juice sweetened!) and enough whipped cream to cover the plate in mounds of white.

Teatime took place at the kitchen table since the dining room is currently in use for Halloween-costume-construction. I read various poems from All the Small Poems and Fourteen More by Valerie Worth. I picked out poems about skeletons, spiders, geese flying south ... various autumn images. I also chose others that had a theme that I knew the kids would enjoy (for example, Kid2 loves potatoes, so I read about potatoes). I like this book of poetry, and I think the kids do, too.

Holiday from Geometry

I was going to say "Math Holiday", but that isn't accurate. We've been doing some long division, working out of RightStart Level E, and also in Murderous Maths (beloved math books that they are). And also a fair bit of real life math, including some of the mathy bits at The Magic House , which had Homeschool Day yesterday.

Kid2 is getting back into the swing of doing RightStart Level B. We've picked up right where we left off, with the introduction of the Base 10 cards. I figured we might as well pull out the Cuisenaire Base 10 block set, by golly, since that's what the cards are picturing. This set off a spate of building:

We have the wooden set. And we've discovered that you can use all the hundred flats and 10 rods to build a tower, peopled with the little ones cubes. You can even take away some of the 10 rods and retain structural integrity. But if you take off the topmost hundred flat, the tower collapses. Interesting, eh? And we also discovered that if you repeatedly knock over the tower on purpose you eventually crack one of the hundred flats, and Mommy gets all out-of-sorts and delivers a stern lecture about the number of building blocks we own which could be used for this purpose, for pete's sake, so why are we bashing around the math manipulatives? (leaving kids to wonder why Mommy was taking pictures of the tower if she was going to turn around and get all cranky about it, but that's sort of outside of the realm of "learning about math").

16 October 2006

As Requested, The Machine

I got it Friday morning, brought it home, set the box on the floor, and didn't get a chance to touch it until Sunday evening:

Yes, a Babylock Imagine. I chose Babylock over Viking because of the ease of threading (which, had you seen me trying to thread the Babylock Sunday night, you would've realized what a brilliant move that was on my part, given how inept I was even with the super-simple Babylock "Woosh" to help me).

First project up is going to be Halloween costumes. We have a bolt of bright pink satin-like fabric, we have a pattern. We have no notions, though, like bright pink thread (we seem to have used it all up, or else it's lost in one of the kids' rooms), single-fold bias tape, maybe even another package of 1/4 inch elastic.

But, of course, we have to wait to get the notions until after our field trip today. And then, of course, we have dance class this afternoon, yada, yada, yada.

Sigh. I've got the machine, now I desperately need time to actually use it.

10 October 2006

RightStart Geometry

The continuing saga of our adventures using RightStart Geometry and RightStart B. I have an 11yo and a 7yo who have average math ability.The 11yo has done Miquon, Singapore, RightStart Transitions, Level D and Level E; RightStart has saved her from a life a math phobia.

On Tuesdays I upload an update of what we did in math for the week.

RightStart Geometry:

Lesson 65 Tangents to Circles

Working with tangents, radii, and tangent segments, and solving some problems using these concepts. The first group of worksheet problems involves drawing tangents to a circles; the ever-popular “compare with other students in your class” appears. Next, the student is to draw tangent segments from points on either side of a circle and “compare with your classmates”. Kid1 works through all of these problems with no apparent issue.

The book gives some prodding for the last set of problems: “...you need to remember several things. What is the sum of hte angles in a quadrilateral? What is the radius if you know the diameter? What is the angle between a tangent and a radius? Do you remember wome basic Pythagorean triples?” But, alsa, Kid1 bogs down and claims she can’t do it.

I start at the top and review every problem on the worksheet with her. Then we review the answers to all the questions listed above. I comment that the fact that these questions are listed tells us that we probably need to use this knowledge to solve the last couple of problems. Yes, they look complicated on the page (all those segments! all those labels!), but if she breaks it down bit by bit she can figure out the answer.

I hold her hand. “Okay, what do we know? So, if we know this angle, what does that tell us about that angle?” And later, “So, if the length of this side of the triangle is 12, and the length of this side is 5, what’s the length of the other side? Okay, let’s review some basic Pythagorean triples: 3,4,5 and 5,12,13 and 7,24,25 ... so, what do you think?”

I’m not sure how imbedded any of this information is in her brain, but at least she now has experience in solving this type of problem. I wonder if she’ll be able to do it on her own later.

Lesson 66 Circumscribed Polygons

Kid1 is offended that the materials list is incomplete. Other than that, she plugs through the work. I’ve noticed that we alternate upsetting lessons with calm lessons.

Lesson 67 Pi, a Special Number

This lesson is still “in process” at our house. Pi has been discussed and played with for several lessons now; this lesson draws it all together. The history of pi is given, art based on pi is discussed.

There are 2 worksheets. The materials list for the worksheets is simply “ruler”. But, aha, if you’re working with pi (3.14, or maybe 22 over 7) then you’re going to have a bunch of calculations going, right? And they may involve long division, or multi-digit multiplication. And you may realize that back at that previous level of RightStart when you sort of suspected your child didn’t really “get” long division you were right. And that, as a matter of fact, that child has maybe forgotten everything discussed about multiplying with decimal numbers. And, if your child is a stickler for following the rules (because, after all, the materials list didn’t mention using a calculator) she’s feeling low about math right now.

Although I’m fine with her using a calculator to find the answers, she and I agree that she needs to understand how the calculations are done. We have stopped mid-worksheet to review long division.

09 October 2006

The Dulaan-Socktoberfest Confluence

Over the past few months I've noticed that weather systems tend to break southwest of here, and pass around us. When I ask people about this, they say, "Oh, that must be because of the confluence."


Back in Ohio, weather systems tended to break west of town. In that case, it was because we were in an extremely flat area, and there was a large ridge west of town. I can pretty much picture how a large mass of land might interrupt the eastward march of rainclouds, but I struggle to picture how a confluence has the same effect. I keep mentioning it to other people, but no one has been able to explain it. I took meteorology, I "get" a lot of geography, but I don't feel like figuring this out myself. So, I keep hoping that someone will come along and do my thinking for me.

In the meantime, I keep watching the weather maps, watching the great green blobs break up southwest of here, and keep thinking to myself, "Hmmmmm ... confluence ... cooooonnnfluuuuuuence ...." (I sort of like the word, y'know.)

So, here is my Dulaan - Socktoberfest confluence. I'm not sure what it will shield me from. Probably not weather.

I'd like to think it will shield me from plumbing problems, but that's sort of unlikely (snicker snicker snort -- if you lived here you'd know how really unlikely that is, and how handy it would be to have some magical talisman that guarantees working plumbing).

I think the most I can ascribe to this particular confluence its that it's shielding me from knitting on a Weasley. Check out that background upon which this cute little sock sets -- that's about 20 inches of stockinette on size 4 needles over 102 stitches. I'm normally a big fan of mindless knitting, but it's starting to wear on me. I'm enjoying this quick little break for child-size socks in variegated yarn.

Happy Dulaan! Happy Socktoberfest! Have a nice confluence!

06 October 2006

Socktoberfest Week One: A Sock-Knitting Memory

I had been knitting for years and years before I ever got around to knitting a sock. I'm not sure why -- I guess I simply wasn't interested in socks until recently.

But eventually the sock-knitting bug bit, and I decided to try a pair. I got some Wool-Ease in worsted weight for the adventure:

It's an off-white, with little strands of grey in it. I thought it looked like a sheep's fleece. Oh, these socks were destined to be cozy and wonderful!

I knit them up while watching My Big Fat Greek Wedding on DVD. I used a very basic pattern, mostly stockinette.

I tried them on. Egads, they gave the impression that they weren't socks at all -- instead, it looked as though I had fat ankles covered with pasty skin and lots of unshaven leg hair (those little strand of grey). Okay, my skin really is pasty, and my legs typically unshaven (although the hair isn't quite that dark), but my ankles most certainly aren't that fat!

As it happened, the socks soon developed a wicked hole in them. I discarded them, and assumed that the hole was a funtion of Wool-Ease not making good socks. No more Wool-Ease for me!

But, alas, it was many a skein of sock yarn before I realized that the yarn I liked to purchase to make socks often bore no resemblance to the yarn I liked to have in the socks I wear. There were some winners in there (notably Cascade Fixation), but there were also a distressing amount of losers. I have most of the skeins still hanging around, hoping to re-purpose them for something else. (I'm not quite sure what -- they'd make great Barbie pullovers and cardigans, although at this point I have enough yarn to knit sweaters for every Barbie in the metro area.)

I finally discovered that I really did like the yarns everyone raved about, like Lorna's Laces and Regia. This should have made for many happy pairs of socks flying off my needles. But, alas, I also realized that the sock patterns I liked to knit often bore no resemblance to the type of sock I like to wear. I like to knit lacey, interesting patterns. I find wearing fussy socks with little holes all over them really really annoying. Sigh. At this point I had amassed quite a collection of sock patterns in books an magazine, most of which were for socks it would drive me nuts to wear.

It would be great if I figured out how to make gift socks, but the whole sizing issue paralyzes me. I feel like I need to make plaster casts of the recipients feet to I can constantly try the socks on the model. It's a performance-anxiety thing.

The road to sock-knitting has been a rocky one for me. But, aha, if my kids should decide to take up sock knitting I have plenty of yarn and patterns for them to forage!

05 October 2006

I Don't Know if I'm One in a Million, but I'm Definitely One in 2007

Yes, I have signed up to participate inthe Dulaan Project . I emailed in to Ryan at Mossy Cottage Knits that I would provide 5 warm, cozy items for kids in Mongolia by next July. (Please note that for some reason I am able to link to Mossy Cottage Knits tonight. Sorry.) If you haven't heard about it yet, take the time to read the flyer I've linked. Or, for that matter, just google a phrase like "kids and Mongolia" to learn about the struggle to survive.

This is going to be a family affair. It's going to be a homeschool affair, too.

Two of the 5 items will be No-Sew Fleece Blankets. The kids have made these blankets before; one of the VBSes they attended this summer made them and shipped them to Mexico. And the kids also made No-Sew Fleece Pillows for MrV and Grandpa (out of Old Gold and Black of course). So, they've plenty of experience in the No-Sew Fleece department. We plan to go to JoAnn Fabrics sometime from Oct. 7-9, to check out the 72inch No-Sew Fleece Throw kits they have on sale for $13.99. But we might simply buy some fleece on sale, either this weekend or some future weekend.

And the other three items ... well, who knows. I'll be knitting those. I'm thinking about making a pair of socks (since I've also joined Socktoberfest). And a vest or sweater. And, well, something else that I'll think of later.

As a bonus, I think this would be an excellent time to learn more about Mongolia in our homeschooling. I'm trying to put together links and resources for that. Didn't we go through some history of the area in Story of the World? I seem to remember it, because I thought it would be cool at the time to felt a doll-size ger; I also remeber Kid1 pleading that we re-read-aloud I Rode a Horse of Milk White Jade (we ended up doing neither, sigh).

I could also see rabbit trails of things like climate (for my weather-obsessed Kid2). What other areas have similar climate? And, of course, a rabbit trail about wool, and why it felts, and why it's so important in that type of climate. And maybe a rabbit trail about different dwellings for different cultures and climates. Oh, such possiblities.

And, of course, there's all the fun math: if 200 people have pledged to make 5 items each, how many items will be shipped? What happens if 2000 people make 5 items each? What if they each made 6 items instead of the 5 they originally said they would do?

03 October 2006

Magic Yarn Ball Swap!

My Magic Yarn Ball arrived today!

I opened the box and discovered:

Mmmmm, Hershey's caramel-filled Kisses (which I didn't even know existed!), a cute ladybug card, and a ball of Cascade Sierra Quattro with stitch markers dangling out, as well as a glimpse of something red ...

Action shot as I unwind one ball and wind another:

That glimpse of red was a ladybug button. So far I've found 2 of those, as well as a cool wooden toggle. But there are some intriguing bumps left in the ball, so I'll continue unwinding/rewinding:

The rewound ball with all the goodies! Beautiful stitch markers, stay-put white ring markers, coil knitting needle holders (another thing I didn't realize existed in the world, and will be So Very Handy -- how did I live without these?), cute buttons, funky tube beads. Great package! Thanks to the talented and creative ksjhwkr for a great swap!

(Please note that as soon as I snapped this picture we ripped into the candy.)

My kids were amazed that I rewound the ball into a new ball as I went along. Kid1 had made a Magic Yarn Ball for Kid2's birthday last week. This is how they believed it should be unwrapped:

Now, guess who got to wind that ball of red yarn back into a ball....

RightStart Geometry

The continuing saga of our adventures using RightStart Geometry and RightStart B. I have a 10yo and a 6yo who have average math ability.The 10yo has done Miquon, Singapore, RightStart Transitions, Level D and Level E; RightStart has saved her from a life a math phobia.

On Tuesdays I upload an update of what we did in math for the week.
RightStart Geometry:

Lesson 61 The Square Root Spiral

“This lesson took a long time. But it didn’t take much brain power. It just took awhile to draw all of those triangles. The chart went really fast.”

It would be cool to make some other designs with the spirals, but, as she said, it took forever to make them.

Lesson 62 Circle Basics

Kid1 is pretty clear on radius and diameter from reading the Sir Cumference books. But, if she weren’t, this lesson explains it simply and well. Reviews circumference, diameter, radius, arc, sector; the worksheet is matching definitions to pictures. Very quick.

Lesson 63 Ratio of Circumference to Diameter

Working with circles. Drawing around various mugs and cans (the book suggests going out and drawing around a bicycle tire with chalk -- that sounds cool to me, but Kid1 opts to stay indoors). Then use something such as beans or paper clips to measure circumference and diameter. Kid1 uses unpopped popcorn. I can’t help but think this would be a real mess in a classroom. Heck, this could be a real mess in some households, with popcorn and beans flying around the room. Fortunately, my kids are sedate.

Lesson 64 Inscribed Polygons

I swear Kid1 has done this before, but she doesn’t remember it. Perhaps I just remember seeing it in various Waldorf-based books. It takes quite a while for her to construct all of the polygons. And the chart contains the dreaded word ratio. This marks the first time all week she’s asked me for help with math -- what do they mean when they ask for a ratio? I explain it for the umpteenth time, commenting that she will eventually learn it since it seems to come up at least once a week.

02 October 2006


I had a sea of purple in my mailbox!

One envelope was from Poppins, whe sent me all sorts of wonderful stuff during the Secret Pal swap at TheDenimJumper this summer. That swap was supposedly over in August, but Poppins sent a super-surprising pacakge ... beautiful stitch markers (wrapped in purple), a CD, some of those amazing postcards she's famous for, a yummy recipe, and a specially-translated-from-German-by-Poppins knitting pattern. Woohoo! What a great surprise!

Of course, since I had so much fun with that swap at TheDenimJumper I was inspired to sign up for the Fall Fairy Swap at MotheringDotCom. And, on the same day I got Poppins package, I got a package from Ozzyemm, full of lavendar! Lavendar lip gloss, a lavendar sachet, a lavendar card, all of it enclosed in acres and acres of lavendar tissue. I love it!

And I love how the 2 packages coordinate!

The yarn? That's come Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece I had received from Webs earlier in the week. It, too, is purple, although my monitor shows it as more blue compared to that sea of purple in front of it. It will be a button up jacket for this fall. I'm all about purple this fall. How lucky to have a couple of swap-mates who caught that vibe!

27 September 2006

Girl Scout Mania

After looking through the Junior badge book and the Brownie try-it book, they've come to a decision about which badges to work on: all of them.

Kid1 is doing this in a very methodical way, earmarking 2 or 3 to work on at a time. When finished with those she will move on to others. This isn't the way I would do it ... I would do all of them concurrently. I'd make some sort of spread sheet to show what I've got done on each and every one, and track my infinitesimal progress. Then I'd be all exhausted and discouraged after setting up this massive system, and ditch the whole idea of earning any more badges.

Kid1 didn't inherit that slow-and-steady-wins-the-race gene from me.

But, check it out, the socks match our current mania -- the stripes have Girl Scout colors of blue, brown, and green:

Knit our of Regia Strato in colorway Orion, which is discontinued. I know it's discontinued because MrV commented that he really liked them and would like to have a pair for himself. I looked the color up, and discovered the grim news that we might not be able to knit a pair for every person in our family ( but if I did knit a pair for MrV or anyone else, I'd do them toe-up so I didn't end up like Poppins and the Regia socks she's knitting for her husband, especially since I don't have relatives in Germany who can bring me more yarn).

We were at Old Navy over the weekend, and discovered socks with the same stripes. So, Regia has already abandoned these stripes, Old Navy and I are just now getting on the bandwagon. What does this tell us?

26 September 2006

RightStart Geometry

The continuing saga of our adventures using RightStart Geometry and RightStart B. I have a 11yo and a 6yo who have average math ability.The 11yo has done Miquon, Singapore, RightStart Transitions, Level D and Level E; RightStart has saved her from a life a math phobia.

On Tuesdays I upload an update of what we did in math for the week.

RightStart Geometry:

Lesson 57 Squares on Right Triangles

Still building up to the Pythagorean Theorem, which Kid1 has heard of before (notably in the book Murderous Maths). The lesson is simple and to the point.

Lesson 58 proofs of the Pythagorean Theorem

Finally, geometry with proofs. The lesson gives some history of the the Pythagorean Theorem (The Egyptians, the Chinese, and Hindu mathematicians knew about it before Pythagoras; James Garfield wrote a proof for it). The lesson also gives a brief explanation of what a proof is. I’ve been casually explaining this to her as we go along. Finally, the lesson highlights “You need to know” pointing to c squared equals a squared plus b squared.

The worksheets involve playing around with congruent figures, stating the theorem in your own words, and working through an informal proof.

Lesson 59 Finding Square Roots

Students learn the square root symbol, review simple square roots (like the square root of 25, say, or 64) and practice doing square roots on a calculator. Some lesson time is given to learning to use the calculator efficiently, something I was never taught to do, because of which I tend to avoid the Memory key. We do not own the calculator sold by the RightStart program; this isn’t a problem, since the directions are pretty generic.

Kid1 whips through this lesson

Lesson 60 More Right Angle Problems

Two pages of worksheets. The first takes over an hour, as I am not available for questions and she has to slowly figure things out on her own (By the way, she seems to have learned the skill of looking at the answer and then working backwards to figure out how she should have done the problem).

Most of the worksheet problems are practical story problems which involve a squared plus b squared equals c squared. One involves fitting skis into a trunk (later, at supper, we discuss that life is never that simple because a trunk isn’t actually a rectangle, and you always have a lip and the hinges to deal with; really, the best way to see if skis will fit in a trunk is to try to fit them in and see what happens). Another involves screen size of a television (although MrV points out that screen size is no longer such a big deal; what matters is whether they’ve put the speakers on the sides or on the top, thereby ruining your chances of ever fitting it onto the shelf).

21 September 2006

Tuesday Teatime

We read all of Got Geography. The poems were great, the collection wasn't too terribly long, and BONUS! it somewhat assuaged that nagging feeling that we don't spend enough time on geography in its many forms.

We dined on slice and bake chocolate chip cookies. The refrigerated dough was on sale this week, plus it was cool enough to turn on the oven to bake. I must admit, though, that the cookies and dough aren't as good as I remember them (yes, I sample the raw dough -- I figure it's pasteurized). But they still smelled wonderful in the oven, and sometimes that's pleasure enough to make up for lack of taste.

And, of course, milk in our china cups. For dunking.

Whew, September hasn't been the best for Teatimes. But this was a nice little break in a busy day within a busy week.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I just got a wonking huge box from Webs . It is time to dump everything else I should be doing, and swatch.

20 September 2006

More Sock Thoughts

I've decided that what I like about toe-up socks is that they require practically no planning. You just cast on some stitches (note to OliveOyl: I was inspired by this sock in Knitty to cast on this way for 18 stitches on 2 double points). You increase until it looks like it will fit around your foot, then knit merrily away. You stick in a heel (I didn't like the heel in the Widdershins sock, as it involved too much thinking, so I used the heel in Wendy's toe-up sock instead, modifying for the number of stitches I was using). Also, you stick a couple of safety pins in to remind you where you put the heel, so you have a clue when you knit the second sock.

Then you just knit as long as you feel like it, and bind off whenever you want to.

How relaxed this all looks, lounging on the big comfy chair! Really, you wouldn't know looking at all this comfy coziness that we're dealing with the ongoing water-heater drama (I have not one, but two new water heaters in my basement right now, neither of which is in that great of condition, both of which probably need to be removed; speaking of which, when you remove these could you please not slosh water -- nasty rusty water, especially -- all over the carpet and gouge holes in the walls, or at least tell me there's a problem instead of leaving me to walk downstairs and discover it myself?), that we're getting ready for a vacation that has morphed into a disaster-on-wheels before we've even packed the car, that we're in the throes of more birthday celebrations than we have people in our family (how did that happen?), that we're trying to do school, repair the driveway, get used to going to dance and choir and swimming (which means I need to have planned menus done hours and hours ahead of time that we can eat as soon as we can get home ... and they need to be gluten free, dairy free, almond/cashew free, pinto/kidney bean free, no trans fats, low saturated fats, no beef or pork as major ingredients, and take into account long time between prep and serving) ....

September is sort of a stressful month around here. Toe-up socks are mindless. It's a good combination.

19 September 2006

RightStart Geometry

The continuing saga of our adventures using RightStart Geometry and RightStart B. I have a 10yo and a 6yo who have average math ability.The 10yo has done Miquon, Singapore, RightStart Transitions, Level D and Level E; RightStart has saved her from a life a math phobia.

On Tuesdays I upload an update of what we did in math for the week.

RightStart Geometry:

Lesson 54 Rectangles Inscribed in a Triangle

In lesson 53 Kid1 was unable to bisect a side of a triangle -- she forgot to draw a perpendicular back up to the line segment she was bisecting. I had showed her how to do it, and wondered whether she had really learned what to do.

The same thing happened in this lesson. This time it was a matter of a quick, “Remember, you go straight up here.” Ah. I think the lesson will sink in more with the repetition. I know I’m getting better at it.

Lesson 55 Connecting Midpoints in a Quadrilateral

Kid1 has a headcold. She stops frequently to get a tissue to wipe her nose. Every time she stops for tissue she tries to sneak a peek at The Sea of Monsters to read just a few more sentences. The lesson is interminable. She is to draw a quadrilateral, find the midpoint of each side, inscribe a new quadrilateral in it, measure the area of each, compare the two areas. This last bit involves using ratios, which clearly still puzzle her. It doesn’t help that her measurements are a wee bit off, giving her a ratio of 18 to 10. I prompt, “What is that a lot like?” Her mind is stopped up with snot. I suggest she stop after the first worksheet. She does.

The next day her head is clear. She knocks off the second worksheet in no time. She comments that it is much easier than she thought it would be.

Lesson 56 Introducing the Pythagorean Theorem

I always wanted to have more Montessori math manipulatives around when the kids were little. I thought it would be cool to play around with some of the Pythagorean stuff.

The lesson involves drawing squares, each using the side of the triangle as one side of the square, then comparing the areas. Easy. Kid1’s unsolicited comment: “This lesson was short and fun.”

14 September 2006

If our socks could talk...

" 'There, that's finished,' Mama said. She stood and held her knitting up to the window. It was a gray stocking for Papa.... A year ago those stockings had been crinkly wool on the back of one of those merinos. Papa had sheared the fleece from the sheep's back, and Mama had washed it and combed it smooth with her spiky-toothed carding brushes. Then she had spun it into yarn on her spinning wheel. And now that yarn had been knitted into a pair of stockings.

"Charlotte looked at these stockings, flat and soft and gray in Mama's hands. It seemed to her they were made of more than just wool. There were words and thoughts knitted into them like the tiny prickles of grass seed that sometimes stayed stuck in the wool even after it had been washed and carded and spun. All the words that had been spoken while Mama's quick hands made the needles cross and uncross around the endless strand of wool -- all those words about the war, and Mr. Madison, and the cannon-heavy ships -- they were all there, knitted into Papa's stockings."
(From Little House by Boston Bay, by Melissa Wiley)

I imagine the stockings in the book looked a little like this.

Reading that passage inspired me to start a pair of sensible socks. I have no sheep, no roving to card, no handspun wool, so I picked a sensible-looking skein from my stash, in this case some Regia:

I think knitting toe-up socks is ever so much more sensible than top-down. Top-down always strikes me as backwards and queer.

In any case, if these socks could talk, I don't know what they'd say about the sheep, or the spinning with polyamide. I imagine the conversation would be in German or Italian, though. The skein travelled through WEBS yarn store, so it was in the same state (Massachusetts) as the stockings in the above passage.

And those green needles? I don't even know where they're from. I got them from my grandma, who got them from another lady at the Assisted Living Facility. They're not even a matched set anymore.

As I knit, the socks are now able to quote from Darmok and Jalad at Tenagra (don't knock it -- that episode features Picard doing an extemporaneous telling of Gilgamesh, and also shows him reading the Homeric hymns in Greek -- a classical ed. goldmine!). They've been to dance class and met a woman who spent $800 on Sonlight curriculum for 2 of her kids this year (she was carrying a very nice Sonlight tote bag; the socks were the conversation starter, but that tote bag got us into the homeschool discussion). They have been to the playground.

Today they will go to swim class. From there, who knows? The world is open.

12 September 2006

RightStart Geometry

The continuing saga of our adventures using RightStart Geometry and RightStart B. I have a 10yo and a 6yo who have average math ability.The 10yo has done Miquon, Singapore, RightStart Transitions, Level D and Level E; RightStart has saved her from a life a math phobia.

On Tuesdays I upload an update of what we did in math for the week.

RightStart Geometry:

Lesson 53 Connecting Midpoints in a Triangle

This ended up being the only math lesson done all week (due to a field trip and then illness). It ended up being a doozy, though.

The worksheet has a triangle on it; the student is supposed to find the midpoint of each side of the triangle, then connect the midpoints. Kid1 quickly found the midpoint of the base, next found the midpoint of one of the legs, then collapsed into tears of frustration trying to find the midpoint of the other leg.

She cried for help (in a very specific way -- the directions to parents say that the student should ask specific questions, not just a general “I don’t get it”). I, of course, have no memory of how to find the midpoint of anything other than just measuring the line and dividing by two. I absent-mindedly roated the T-square around while contemplating how to approach the problem. Kid1 huffily pointed out that the T-square is to remain in the same direction through all the work, and that had been taught in one of the early lessons (subtext: get a clue, Mom). Then I had the brilliant notion to ask her to show me everything she’d done so far.

“Well, I found the midpoint of the base, then of this line....”

“No, show me step by step. Be specific.”

She showed me. Aha, now I sort of remember how to do this. It’s a matter of using the 45 angle, dropping down to a line parallel to the base, make a new triangle, then drawing a line back from the apex of that triangle back to the line you’re bisecting. Kid1 had neglected that last step of going from the apex back up to the line; actually, I wasn’t sure this was exactly how you’re supposed to do it, but it appeared to work.

Next she connected the midpoints. She was supposed to discuss whether lines in the new triangle were parallel to the lines in the outer triangle. “Some lines seem to be parallel; you can check it with your drawing tools.” The book cheerfully prompted, “If you’ve forgotten how, look back to Lesson 33.” We dutifully turn to Lesson 33, and discover that it’s about Area of a Triangle. Huh?

I know there’s some way to use your drawing tools to figure out parallel lines, but my memory of it is as hazy as my memory of how to bisect a line segment. I suggest she eyeball it. Actually, her lines are a bit off due to the imprecision of her work. I suggest she just go with it because it makes sense to me (some sort of distant memory of 10th grade geometry, I guess) plus I peeked at the answer page.

The rest of the lesson went okay -- just a matter of figuring ratios. Well, it went okay once we had a quick review of what ratios are.

11 September 2006

Braced for the onslaught

This week marks the beginning of extracurricular activities -- all of them. This means hours upon hours of sitting and waiting while kids swim, dance and sing.

This is what I've got so far:

Two portable projects -- a Klein bottle hat, and a toe-up sock.

Last year we didn't sign up for any outside classes since we were in the midst of moving. Oh, the glorious freedom of not having to rush to anything at 4pm every single weekday! On the other hand, it was sort of lonely and isolating.

This year we have a modest schedule. Each child has church choir (meets concurrently on Sunday), a dance class, and a swim class. They have also signed up for Scouts, but as Juliettes, which are the independent scouts. This area apparently doesn't have any Interest Groups -- all the troops here are associated with schools. Kid1 used to belong to an awesome Interest Group troop full of homeschoolers.

Kid1: "I don't want to join a troop. They might want to work on different badges then I want to work on. But I still want to sell cookies."

Me: "Ummm. Well. I don't think you can sell cookies if you're a Juliette." (Exit to scream and jump with excitement at the prospect of No Cookie Sales.)

Kid2: "I don't think this is fair. I should have a chance to join a troop. I never got to belong to a troop."

Kid1: "Oh, for pete's sake. The meetings are boring. You wouldn't like them anyway."

Which is true. Kid2 likes the concept of being around other kids, but often finds the reality of the other kids downright annoying. I think she is a Highly Sensitive Child. Or maybe she's just a control freak. In any event, three programs a week is plenty for her to deal with.

08 September 2006

That feeling you get when you finish a great book in the middle of the night, and want to tell someone about it

I got a copy of Rick Riordan's The Lightning Thief yesterday. On a whim, I started reading it after the kids went to bed.

I finished it at 2a.m. Y'all gotta know, I never stay up after 10p.m. Never. But, well, I kept thinking that in a few more pages I'd get to a good stopping point....

No, that's a lie. It was pretty apparent early on that this book was non-stop.

I'd love to write the witty, wonderful review this book deserves, but I'm operating on way too little sleep. Let's just say that I wanted to bounce into Kid1's bedroom as soon as I finished the book, wake her up and tell her about it. That's how excited I was.

Greek gods! Olympus! Hades! New York! Las Vegas! Los Angeles! A quest! Characters swearing at each other in ancient Greek, and the occasional Latin! General goofiiness!

Wafting around the internet this morning, I see that people are drawing comparisons to Harry Potter. Pshaw. I'd compare it more to Terry Pratchett's DiscWorld.

You need to go read it. Really. It's vital to your classical education.

05 September 2006

RightStart Geometry

The continuing saga of our adventures using RightStart Geometry and RightStart B. I have a 10yo and a 6yo who have average math ability.The 10yo has done Miquon, Singapore, RightStart Transitions, Level D and Level E; RightStart has saved her from a life a math phobia.

On Tuesdays I upload an update of what we did in math for the week.

RightStart Geometry:

Lesson 49 Other Congruent Triangles (SAS, ASA)

The Student is to start off by doing 4 problems on the worksheet, then reading the lesson, then finishing the worksheet. The final problem makes use of the recent lessons on transversals and alternate angles (lesson 47). Kid1 gets a different answer for the last problem then that shown in the book. We look it over together, discuss why various answers may be true. I tell her that she will eventually be able to write up this discussion as a “proof”. I mean to email Dr. Cotter and ask if the answer sheet should list the alternate answers, but forget about it in the hurleyburley of life.

Lesson 50 Side and Angle Relationships in Triangles

Read about half the lesson, do the worksheet, then finish reading the lesson. The student should’ve discovered the relationship between angles and sides while doing the worksheet. I like this set up. It’s a nice change from the “we’re going to tell you about it, then you go drudge through a bunch of problems practicing what we just told you.”

Lesson 51 Median in Triangles

Major typo on this page. First there is a picture captioned “Line segments ME, DI, and AN are medians.” Then there is a blank space captioned “Line segments AR, EN, and OT are not medians.” Well, yes, given that AR, EN, and OT don’t exist, they certainly aren’t medians. But we can only speculate what other non-medians might look like.

On the worksheept the student is to draw a trinagle and construct medians, then compare answers with classmates. Sigh. Not only do we have nonexistent medians, we have nonexistent clasmates.

Lesson 52 More About Medians in Triangles

This lesson is one of those “1 or 2 days” types of lessons. Kid1 doesn’t notice this designation, and struggles through the entire thing in one day. It starts off with a materials list that requires a pencil with a new eraser, a craft stick (we cannot find any of the dozens we swear we have, and consider eating popsicles to liberate some more; in the end, she uses a pencil with flat sides). The odd materials are used to try balancing triangles on various points and lines -- a triangle can balance on a meridian, and also on its centroid point.

The worksheets require much measurement. She is to find areas of various triangles. She has forgotten how to find the area of a triangle. She is wailing and gnashing teeth. I remind her, “Remember that thing with the parallelograms?” That’s enough to remind her of one way she had derived the method for finding area of a triangle (frankly, I couldn’t remember the formula either after a 20 year lull in my need to know it; the parallelogram example is how I derive it).

But, oh, the anguish ... many of her measurements are a wee bit off from the measurements used in the book. I remember this sort of thing happening with earlier levels of RightStart -- we would often find ourselves a bit off, a millimeter here or there, from the book’s measures. So frustrating. I look at her worksheet, look at the answers, say, “Look, do you understand the point they’re trying to make? Okay, then. That’s what’s important.”

(For the record, she usually checks her own answers. This turned into a tandem math lesson, though.)