21 December 2007

The Fog Is Lifting

If I've had something nourishing to eat and a nap I can go maybe three hours in a fairly coherent state. It helps if I spend that time fairly quietly.

I've been knitting on Twist

in Cascade 220 superwash. I got about this far in the cables and realized that I had neglected to change needles to the larger size once I'd finished the rib. I calmly ripped back to the rib, inserted a needle in all the loose stitches, and knitted back up to this point. I was too tired to be anything but calm.

I have been taking online quizzes

You Are a Cranberry and Popcorn Strung Tree

Christmas is all about showcasing your creative talents.
From cookies to nicely wrapped presents, your unique creations impress everyone.

Hat tip to Drew. This picture is pretty funny when you consider that we just had the "garland discussion" while setting up the tree last week. MrV favors the tinsel sort of garland (MrV would probably come out of the quiz as a fiber optic tree, if that's an option). I kept saying, "We could string popcorn, or make paper chains out of construction paper!". Yep, that's me, stringing popcorn for the tree, sending out the handmade Christmas cards, knitting up presents. (In the end we put some gold beaded garland we already had on the tree. We have so many handmade ornaments that garland is superfluous.)

I also discovered here that I am most like The Librarian (no surprise there) or maybe Death (probably due to my tendency to talk in capital letters; also, I'm on the skinny side), followed distantly by Carrot. None of which makes sense if you don't read Terry Pratchett's books. I discovered this quiz via Ravelry when I joined the Ankh-Morpork Knitter's Guild, by the way. Amazing what you can discover on Ravelry, especially when you're too groggy to do anything but click on links.

In the meantime, while I've been sitting quietly to one side, the kids have been busy cleaning the house. We are hosting a sleepover tonight (this may be really dumb given that I'm sick; or maybe it's really brilliant). They have handed me a list of planned activities, which includes building a roaring fire so they can cook dinner over open flames, then watching about 20 full length movies. Sounds fine to me. I'll be curled up with my box of tissues and my knitting.

20 December 2007

Zooming Down the Road to Bethlehem

Years ago someone gave us a book that had cardstock nativity figures you could punch out and set up. The book also had a little story you could read each day as you set the figures up little by little.

Which is fine, except we have tons of stories to be read every day in Advent, and the story in this book was rather dorky. But the kids wanted to punch out the little cardstock figures and set them up because they like that sort of thing -- it has a sort of paper doll vibe to it. And I didn't want to have random nativity figures strewn all over the house (well, more than we already do), getting all tatty and ripped.

So I came up with a sort of compromise -- we would use the cardstock nativity, but we would read a different story. We would use The Light in the Lantern. Of course, this involved getting other stuff into the scene we were setting up, as our cardstock set didn't come with, say, squirrels or spiders or rabbits. But we sort of had fun finding stuff all over the house to use to illustrate the story as we set it up little by little.

And, of course, the next year we did it again. And again. It had become a tradition. Except I don't think cardstock figures are exactly made to be used year after year.

And this year when we were getting out the Christmas stuff I just sort of left the bag of them laying there. No one seemed to notice that they were missing. "Ah," I though, "the kids have outgrown this. Which is fine, since I'm sick of this particular nativity set."

On Monday of this week Kid2 suddenly announced, "WE FORGOT TO DO THE LIGHT IN THE LANTERN!"

Egads. My bad -- I should've known that household traditions are household traditions, and must be laid to rest carefully, not casually overlooked and forgotten.

The book has 28 stories in it, enough to read one per day for four weeks. And it's about a week until Christmas.

So we did the entire first week (mineral kingdom) on Monday. The entire second week (plants) on Tuesday. And the third week (animals) yesterday. Mother Mary and Joesph are setting speed records on the road to Bethlehem.

Fortunately, we are pretty speedy about about getting our props. We no longer break open a new geode for the story about the boulder in their path -- I just save the same one to use from year to year. Run and get some jagged rocks from around the air coniditioner compressor, plunk down a shot glass with water and glitter in it for the well, the squirrel is in the Playmobil, the spider is in the box of Halloween decorations ... on and on.

Mother Mary keeps falling on her face, possibly due to the blistering pace, or possibly due to the fragile nature of cardstock figures. We have lost the sheep's horns. I have been campaigning to pitch the cardstock figures and get something else. Kid2 is tending to agree (although given how sick I am this week, the kids are being pretty agreeable to everything -- my complaints about the cardstock figures are a welcome break from my complaints that my head is going to explode or my eyeballs are going to fall out next time I sneeze, and today we have the entire new issue of how much my chest hurts when I cough or clear my throat and I might be dying here, do I really have to spend my final moments on Earth setting up these cardstock figures that keep knocking over?).

If we do keep the storybook but ditch the cardstock, I'd like to make some new figures. Out of wool. Using the concept of the angel off the front cover of Living Crafts, which is a magazine that I just discovered this week at Michaels and like so much that I want to sleep with it under my pillow. Many of my thoughts this week seem to center on "sleep" and "pillow", though, so this might not be a good measure.

Today we should catch up with the story, and be able to enter Bethlehem with grace and dignity. Assuming I live that long. Have I mentioned how much my chest hurts every time I cough?

19 December 2007

Tuesday Teatime

Teatime took place in the living room next to the Christmas tree.

Our menu was hot chocolate (in Christmas mugs) and Reindeer Nose Cookies (on Christmas plates). We had purchased the cookies Monday at the zoo; Kid2 had seen them in the gift shop and commented that we should get them for Tuesday teatime.

(An aside: Parking in the parking lots was free at the zoo on Monday. I don't know if that was due to the crummy weather. Maybe they figured that whoever showed up could just park wherever they want?)

And our reading? Need I even tell you what it was? Twas the Night Before Christmas, of course. This was followed by several pages of The Story of Santa Claus.

Teatime is a great way to take a break during the holiday!

17 December 2007

Cheap Filler Because I Am Tired*

This is the sweater I was wearing yesterday:

I'm not sure when I knit it. I know I had it in the early 80s, when I was going through a phase in which I made most of my own clothes (note that this was before I had kids). The yarn is acrylic, and is sportweight; this was back before we had a lot of that newfangled DK stuff.

It may be one of my first attempts at intarsia. The design is all knitted in -- I suck at duplicate stitch. That bit of blue along the shoulders is a horseshoe pattern. And, yes, I really would decide to do an entire intarsia sweater without really knowing how to do the required technique because, well, it's only knitting. What's the worst that could happen if you flub it up?

I have no idea why I still have this sweater. Many sweaters have been knit, loved, worn over and over, and eventually discarded. In some cases I've saved the patterns of those discarded sweaters because I have it in the back of my mind that I want to knit them again someday.

I'm glad I saved this one, though. It's nice to have momentos from the past, especially momentos that are actually useful.

* I expected a busy weekend involving a piano recital, having to be at church at 7:30am. dance class, having 1 (quiet) friend over for a playdate. I did not expect 6 inches of snow, along with the accompanying need to shovel everything and have large herds of children tromping through the house in wet boots and snow pants looking for hot chocolate during sledding breaks. Also, we now have an extra adult winter coat in our kitchen -- where did that come from? Yeesh. I'm too tired to call around and figure out who it belongs to.

14 December 2007

Halfway There!

(Okay, we're a little more than halfway there, but we lost our Internet connection yesterday.)

We have celebrated St. Nicholas Day on the 5th. He left wee little painting sets in the kids' shoes. They were immediately used to paint tiny little landscapes. Perfect for dollhouses.

If you need a painting set like this but were passed by on St. Nicholas day, Michael's carries them in the $5 bin with all the cheapy stocking stuffers. They come with that doll-sized duffle bag you see in the background.

We have worked on our Christmas cards. They are based on a design in Family Fun magazine -- you can see a proto-type there in the foreground. We aren't done with this project yet, but are moving along briskly.

We listen to Christmas music while working on cards. When "I Saw Three Ships" comes on we must halt production and dance a jig because we CAN.

We have celebrated St. Lucia Day on the 13th. This is a popular holiday at our house -- it's Swedish and involves lots of candles and a chance to dress up (white dress and red sash). What's not to like?

I thought the crayons in lieu of candles were quite creative. She is carrying a tiny brownie (actually a piece of sponge painted brown) and a tiny glass of milk (a plastic communion cup with a cotton ball in it). These are both items from the Brownie Swap meet last week -- Kid2 took off the safety pins for Kit's entrance as St. Lucia.

And we've been to see The Man.

I think in this shot he's asking Kid2 if her room is clean. He spent quite a long time talking to them. He remembered them from last year, which was ... magic.

12 December 2007

Swaps and Exchanges

The Brownie troop exchanged Swaps as a Christmas party activity. The kids made the swaps ahead of time, then handed them out at the party.

Kid2 decided that she wanted to make tiny little marshmallows-on-sticks. She loooooves to toast marshmallows in a fire, so it seemed appropriate.

She made the marshmallows out of white Crayola Model Magic. A tiny package made lots and lots of faux marshmallows. As she made the marshmallows she stuck a tiny twig through each one.

After they were dry she hot glued pins to the back. (Her sister nabbed a pinless one to use for dolls to play campout.)

Very cute. Many people were thought that she used actually mini-marshmallows that she had allowed to dry.

The Junior troop had a cookie exchange -- a half dozen cookies for each girl, homemade or purchased.

Kid1 decided to make meringues, which are basically whipped egg white and sugar baked at low temperature (250F). She added a little vanilla, peppermint extract, and also some mini chocolate chips.

It was her first time whipping egg whites into meringues. We don't have the equipment to pipe them out nicely on the cookie sheets, so they're sort of blobby.

But I think the final presentation looked appealing:

In other Christmas news, the tree is in the house and set up. I need to go get more lights, as one of our strands gave out. In the course of all of this putting-up-of-tree I've come to the conclusion that I'm mildly allergic to Frasier Fir -- my arms were splotchy and itchy from handling it, and my nose was stuffing up while I was around it. MrV offered to pitch the whole thing and come up with something else, but I think I can survive the next couple of weeks. But I'm thinking that we might look for a new artificial tree in the post-holiday sales.

10 December 2007

If I Had Two More Yards of Yarn

This is how much black Cascade 220 I have:

I'd like to knit 2-3 more rows in black. That's all. If I could knit 2-3 more rows, I could finish this scarf without having to do much thinking.

But, the yarn is totally gone. As it stands now, the ends don't match -- the beginning has a nice, substantial black border, the end has just a couple of rows of black.

I like that the scarf has 5 complete octaves. It would look wonky to rip out, say, a single black key. Especially since this is a gift for a piano teacher (I think she'd notice, know what I mean?). I like the current length of the scarf. Mrs. Piano Teacher is tall. So I don't want to rip out an entire half-octave.

And since Mrs. Piano Teacher is a knitter, she'll look at how things are cast on and bound off. Really. We actually chat about various cast-ons (casts on?).

So, here I sit, having to actually think about what I'm doing. Which is a shame, because this was a wonderfully mindless knit while we were travelling this past weekend. The illusion knitting takes just enough attention to keep you from dozing off.

The last time I'll see her before Christmas is at a recital next Saturday. I have until then to contemplate what to do. And a little voice in my head is saying, "take it to this week's piano lesson, show it to her and ask her how she would handle it -- she won't know it's for her." Hee.

(The travelling this past weekend was the first family Christmas get together. Gifts were wrapped, delivered, opened, oohed and aahed over. One down! More to come!)

06 December 2007


Every year I trade out the (quite heavy and large) every day dishes for the (quite heavy and large) Christmas dishes. Then, at the end of Chritsmastide, I trade them back.

It's a lot of work to unpack and repack those dishes twice a year. And when I pack them I do it well enough that we can load up the boxes onto a moving van. Our lifestyle dictates that sort of forethought.

We also unpack and repack the Fontanini manger scene every year. Early in Advent, the gang just sort of hangs out. Here are some of the crew, sailing the good ship Faber and Faber across the sea:

Later on they sailed on into the family room to watch a movie with us.

In the meantime, the Wise Men were hanging out on the coffee table (currently covered in green fleece for the occasion):

Did you know that they didn't get along? It's true. The guy with the gold started calling the guy carrying frankincense "Frankie", so Frankincense Man started getting all sneery and calling Gold Guy "Goldielocks". I have no idea what role Mr. Myrrh plays in all of this, but the whole thing started getting really ugly. It's no wonder the rest of the gang left the Wise Men stranded there on Coffee Table Island.

Of course, by Christmas Eve this will all settle down, MrV will read the Bible story of Christmas, and the kids will act it out using the Fontanini set. It's a cool tradition.

And, let's see, we have numerous Advent calendars going. We celebrate St. Nicholas Day and St. Lucia Day. Lots and lots of traditions. Beautiful, meaningful traditions.

So why, when Kid1's Sunday School discussed family Christmas traditions, did she choose to tell everyone about the freezer-burnt chicken nuggets for Christmas Eve supper? It started in a year that was such a low spot in our Christmas celebrations, having to do with incredibly icky weather, excited little kids whose priority was making butter cookies for Santa instead of making sure we had edible food in the house for supper, and all those stupid luminarias the neighborhood insisted we should all do (it's really hard to light the candles in luminarias when you have strong winds at about -5F -- your lighter stops working, and you can pretty much stick your fingers right into a lit match and barely feel warmth -- just a little tip from me to you). Believe it or not, the chicken-nugget tradition has gone downhill from there. But I always considered it our family's little secret, not to be shared with the general public.

It's moments like this that I realize I've lost control of the magic of Christmas. My children's Christmas memories are apparently full of bizarro, whacky events that we keep stumbling through. Which is probably more fun, come to think of it.

Deer-Approved Christmas Tree

In the past we've been artificial-tree people. MrV thinks it's stupid to kill a tree just to stick it in our living room for a couple of weeks, plus cats don't climb artificial trees as much. Plus they're cheaper over the course of several years, especially if you keep using the same artificial tree year after year after year, to the point that your kids associate the plastic smell of the tree with Christmas.

But we knew some people with a tree lot. So we decided to get a real tree.

We got in our car here in Major Metropolitan Area, drove down Fairly Busy St. and stopped to turn left onto Cut-Through St. (which goes over to Really Busy St., which leads to Extremely Busy Avoid-It-If-You-Can St.). Out of nowhere, 4 deer appeared, and went trotting down the sidewalk into the night. They looked like trick-or-treaters, except they weren't carrying treat bags.

We got our tree and brought it home to put in the garage in a bucket of water

and happened to glance out the garage door because of a loud noise. We were being studied by a buck and doe. It was eery. They would not leave, even when we went out to have a better look. MrV tried to take their picture, but we just ended up with pictures of lots of darkness with bright little eyes in the middle.

The tree is a Frasier Fir. We'll keep it in water in our garage, protected from sun and wind, for another week or so.

No deer have been sighted in the garage today, although a cardinal flew out earlier. I'm wondering if the forest creatures want to reclaim our garage now that we have a tree in it.

03 December 2007

Our Story So Far...

Advent is such a special time of year.

It's a time to, well, to eat a breakfast of crinkle cut potato chips dipped in Ranch dip while updating your blog because really you don't have time to sit and be reflective, or even fix something decent to eat.

We started Advent-craziness in earnest last Friday, when I made a skirt for Kid1 to wear to the various Christmas functions:

Ottobre Woman 5/2007 #18. The original in the magazine was made in gold dupioni silk. Kid1 wanted a black skirt; we looked over the black dupioni at JoAnn's, but she felt it "looked like it has dust on it" (there was a sort of white sheen to the black silk). So we ended up with a polyester from the bridal section. She wears it with a pair of my high heels, and looks impossibly grown up.

I was a tad nervous as I got to the invisible zipper insertion, since zippers are often my downfall. The zipper was going in fairly smoothly (I have apparently made every mistake possible with zippers, and am starting to get the hang of it), but I kept noting how amazingly brown the black zipper looked compared to the black fabric. I finally got up to check the zipper package, and discovered that I had purchased a brown zipper. Doh. So, a quick trip back to the fabric store, and I was set. No further problems, although I'll admit that I hand sewed the lining to the zipper since I didn't trust my skills at machine sewing that little bit together.

Saturday morning we went downtown to Shades of Green, a scouting event involving thousands of Girl Scouts wearing identical green t-shirts tromping around a cavernous convention center looking at scouty-type stuff. I felt I should've earned a special badge for driving us to a downtown location I'd never been to before, finding a parking spot, and remaining calm on the way home when the highway entrance ramp I expected to use was closed for construction.

The rest of the day was spent cleaning the house and putting up some Christmas decorations. Then Kid1 and I went to church for an evening Advent service in which she sang (looking all impossibly grownup there in her black skirt and my high heels, sob). Kid2 was sick, and stayed home with MrV.

Sunday morning we all went to church. It was wonderfully balmy when we left home around 9:30 am. By the time we left the church at noon rain was coming down in sheets. The temperature dropped steadily all afternoon. But we were snug inside having a Suzuki piano recital -- Kid1 played and Kid2 read the little story that tied all the piano music together. Various relatives and neighbors were in attendance, as well as Mrs. Piano Teacher. We served snacks on our Christmas dishes. Yay us for getting out some of the Christmas dishes!

The kids decided they both were too sick to go back to church for the evening, so we watched Elf and put up more Christmas decorations.

Two days of December craziness down, 29 to go.

28 November 2007

November's Unfinished Object

The other day Kid1 was getting something out of my closet when this fell on her head:

(Note: the plan was to get one of those Closet Maid closet organization systems AFTER we painted the room, since the closets were as dismal as the wallpapered version of the room)

"Hey, look, it's a sock!"

"No, it's not. It's a cuff."

"Well, it's almost a sock!"

Sigh, no, when you're knitting cuff-down, you still have miles of knitting to go when you're poised to turn the heel and start slogging through the foot. Especially if it's a sock for a man's foot.

And indeed, this is the Father and Son sock from Fall 2006 Interweave knits. I got to the line that said "In preparation for heel flap..." and decided a) I wasn't sure exactly what the pattern was saying, and b) I was sick of working on it. The problem with being sick of it was the subtle chevron -- I kept losing track of where I was in the pattern.

See the chevrons? Barely? Yeah, me too. Except, you know, when viewing them from above, sort of like you would when someone is wearing the sock. From that angle it's glaringly obvious if there's a mistake. So, mistakes must be corrected. (And, yeah, you might say, "well, I can't see them because the picture's fuzzy, " but that makes us equal, since they look that fuzzy to me since I need to go get glasses. Just sayin'.)

However, I took the sock along to piano lessons -- Mrs. Piano Teacher has a big, comfy chair that gets the autumn sun on it, and the autumn sun shines at such a low angle that it's easy to see the little purl ridges of the sock. And the several-month-hiatus helped me decipher the pattern. Or maybe I've knit enough socks in the meantime that I have a better feel for what needs to happen next.

Of course, I haven't picked it up since piano lessons. So progress hasn't been exactly swift. I need to find a comfy chair in the sunlight in my house, I guess.

26 November 2007


Bee stripe socks:

Bee stripe yarn from Lorna's Laces. I made up the pattern as I went along. These are a Christmas gift.

A more impressive finished object:

Our bedroom.

This is just a little slice of wall between a bookcase and the door. Note that it is painted. Jut plain ol' paint on drywall. NO WALLPAPER.

When we moved into the house 2 years ago, the bedroom was painted a weird tan-brown on top of textured wallpaper, with burgundy border. I set to work right away removing the wallpaper. Our bedroom is stupidly large, so this involved peeling many square yards of wallpaper off the walls. But I finally did it! And then started to scrub the painted walls...and realized that there was another layer of wallpaper under that paint.

Yes, I could see faint images of flowers under the white of the wall. More distressingly, as I scrubbed the wallpaper paste off of the paint, flecks of the paint came off here and there, letting me know that if we tried painting on top of the painted-plus-wallpapered wall we could expect disaster.

So, we started scraping off the next layer of wallpaper. This involved peeling off the upper layer of paint-plus-wallpaper first, then peeling off the paper-plus-adhesive (it had to be a two step procedure, since we quickly discovered that if we tried to take it all off in one piece, the drywall was going to come off with the paper).

Did I mention how much wall surface area we have in our room? Acres. It seemed to take F.O.R.E.V.E.R. I tried to take some of the tedium away by only working on it during Star Trek Voyager reruns (which I now associate with crappy wallpaper, by the way).

But the wallpaper is all gone. The drywall is patched. The walls are painted. The switch plates are back on the light switches after 2 years of no-switch-plates. I wake up in the morning, open my eyes, and see a painted wall in a pleasant periwinkle color.

And if you ever even think about being lazy and not taking down old wallpaper before you paint or paper, you are a very bad person and probably have cooties. Please get away from me.

Also finished this weekend but not pictured: a long sleeve t-shirt for Kid1 in a periwinkle knit that goes nicely with the walls (I'm a big fan of periwinkle); and, this year's version of fleece Hello Kitty jammies for Kid2.

09 November 2007

School Work

Yes, we do get some school work done around here.

Kid1 continues the Bonus Round of RightStart Geometry -- the pages that are downloaded from the website, and not yet published. She has a handful of lessons to go with this. These lessons seem fairly easy compared to what went before. Or maybe they just cover topics that are easier for her. Or maybe she's not actually doing them -- I've pretty much lost touch with the entire operation, and am vaguely aware that she is figuring out stuff about spheres that circumscribe platonic solids. Whatever that means. Okay, actually I know what a platonic solid is. I'm not sure why I care about the spheres that they can be stuck into, unless I'm planning to knit one.

She also merrily plugs away at Latin for Children. She was alternating this with Ecce Romani, but now concentrates exclusively on the Latin for Children. She is charmed by the quirky DVD. We have the early version, the one produced before they decided to get all professional and consistent. We all watch it every week to see what will happen next -- will their cat wander through? Will the girls say something outlandish? Or maybe pop a jaw while yawning, then start giggling?

Odds and ends of Classical Writing Aesop are being done. She felt a need to work with a couple more of the Aesop level stories before moving on to Homer. I was looking over the grammar sheet the other day. "Why do you have OP written over all these words? The instructions don't say anything about OP."

"It stands for Object of the Preposition. We were doing object of the preposition in Latin, and I thought it would be fun to do them on this." Oh. Did I even have a clue about objects of the proposition when I was this age? Probably not.

We've started Bravewriter Boomerang. I have no background in literary criticism. None. I'm pretty sure I never even took a class that explored metaphor or anything else of that ilk. So Boomerang is her opportunity to discuss what goes on in a writer's mind. Yes, she's signed up for Boomerang Complete, which means she can participate in the online forums (I stay out of that -- she has her own password, and tends to her own discussions. We've had some conversations about online safety, and I trust Julie, the forum owner, to keep the kids pretty much in line.). I print out the information regarding the dictation exercises; we would not do dictation on a regular basis if someone else hadn't packaged it for our use.

And then there's piano. And dance. And science (mostly, at this point, Scout badge work, plus Science Center and Zoo classes, and also randomly listening in on conversations ... like at the vet's yesterday, when I was discussing the life cycle of fleas with the vet, which conversation was made easier by the fact that I'd taken entymology in college rather than literary criticism, which may mean I have a duller inner life and write more run on sentences than those of you who were lit majors, but on the other hand I do feel quite at ease discussing the comparative effects of Insect Growth Regulators, and, given the state of my ankles, that is a good trade off for now).

She reads voraciously. Sometimes I steer her to historical fiction. Sometimes I don't.

In the meantime, Kid2 is working through RightStart C. So far it's sort of fun. She is quite fascinated with the card games. I'm not a big fan of the card games, as I'd rather be doing something else, but, aha, she's able to get Kid1 to play the games with her (I also disliked the games back when Kid1 was playing them for RightStart, so Kid1 apparently still has unsatisfied game-playing desires).

We also continue to work through the second year of First Language Lessons. She has completed the booklet of the poem about the months of the year. She had really looked forward to that, having remembered if from when her big sister did it four years ago. Now we're into the part of the book where we whip out School House Rock to supplement the explanations of the various parts of speech. Then after this, as I recall from four years ago, it all gets very dull and we simply try to survive the remainder of the book.

She works on Prima Latina in fits and starts. It is also dull, which we had never noticed until we tried other Latin courses. Mostly she wants to work on it because her sister works on Latin and she needs to keep up.

And she does piano. And dance. And science.

And my own school work? I just got Lingua Latina in the hopes that I will finally wade through more than a couple of chapters of some Latin program on my own. Henle didn't do it for me, nor Latin Book One. And Latina Christiana, Minimus, Ecce Romani and Latin for Children have also failed to make an impression. I will say that I've become very good at reading through and comprehending the first couple of chapters of beginning Latin books, having practiced that skill so many times. After the first couple of chapters, though, it gets ... hard. Eeeew -- chapter 2 of Lingua Latina forced me to remember some of those pesky declensions and actually use them in sentences. Who knew that's what they were for? I liked the declensions better when they stayed in their orderly little charts in the textbooks -- when they start running around the text like they own the storyline I find it very disturbing.

Also, the other day I picked up a copy of John Thompson piano book 3. I had used this book years and years ago, but somehow didn't have my copy anymore. I still had some of the pieces memorized. What a fun book -- not very hard, but a bit more interesting than Mary Had a Little Lamb. Plus it's not Suzuki (having 2 kids go through Suzuki can put you off certain specific pieces of music, let me tell you).

Of course, next week is Thanksgiving, after which we will undoubtably fall to pieces again insofar as school work is concerned. But I will have this lovely snapshot of these few weeks when we had our act together (sort of) to look back upon.

07 November 2007

Badge Work

A few weeks back Kid2's Brownie troop worked on their Colors and Shapes Try-It. The girls did 2 projects that day -- mixing colors, and yarn painting. All the moms were to bring in some yarn for the yarn painting.

(The way that ended up working: I brought in a huge bag that barely put a dent in my stash. I'm not sure that anyone else brought anything at all. I announced that I really really didn't want the leftover yarn back, so the troop now has its own yarn stash.)

"Yarn painting" means that you draw a picture on cardboard or card stock, then glue yarn on the picture to color it in. Family Fun magazine featured some leaves done with yarn on cardboard in a recent issue. They looked really nice, and like an adult had done them with nice yarn bought specifically for the picture they had in mind. Sort of a Martha Stewart rendition of a kids craft project.

Kid2 didn't attend that particular meeting (I was in charge of badge work at the Junior meeting down the hall, and she opted to tag along with me instead), but we peeked at the finished artwork. Unlike the Family Fun magazine leaves, it looked more like 18 young girls had done it with random yarn someone had dumped off from their stash. Which isn't to say it looked bad -- it just didn't look like something magazine editors would photograph. It also looked very wet and gluey.

So, in order to "catch up" with her troop, we wanted to do the project at home. But, well. Wet gluey-ness. Available yarn colors that didn't suit the inner vision of the young artist (because I'm not buying new yarn for this project -- sorry, folks). How to make it more appealing for the young artist and her clean up crew?

We tweaked the project. It became painting with roving on wool felt, using a felting needle. I think it turned out pretty good. I had her look through the available roving, then draw a picture based on the colors available. The background felt is actually a wool blend from JoAnn's -- we had several colors, and she decided white would work best for this project. Then we set up foam to work on, got out the felting needles, and she went to it.

After determining that she wasn't going to felt her hand to the picture (she's needle felted before) I wandered out of the room (this either makes me a very bad mommy for leaving a small child with possibly dangerous equipment, or a very good mommy for trusting her creative genius). In the meantime, Kid1 decided to get in on the action, and did her own little roving/felt picture.

I wouldn't have done this project with her troop -- no way would I have 18 kids ages 6-9 brandishing felting needles -- but I really like it for home badge work.

(The other part of the Try-It she missed -- mixing primary colors of paints to make secondary colors as well as tints, tones and shades -- we earn effortlessly since we only own a few colors of Stockmar paints and so mix up whatever else we need as we go along.)

In the meantime, I've made a list of Junior badgework that can be done outside in pleasant temperatures, and we are scurrying to work on those things in this small window where the weather is neither insanely hot (I think it was 90F out about 3 weeks ago, wasn't it?) or uncomfortably cold (and right now it's 21F, which is getting rather brisk).

Kid1 has decided she wants her hiking badge. This involves either 2 all day hikes, or an overnight hike. I anounced that I thought it might be wise to work our way up to that. Once upon a time I could've just spontaneously gone on an all day hike with no muscular repercussions, but those days are gone. We are working on the walking badge, which involves a 3 week program of walking for fitness, and will, cleverly enough, build up our walking muscles. We're also taking shorter hikes in various wooded areas, during which we're working on tree identification (part of the Earth Connections badge -- as soon as she saw it involved learning 10 trees and 5 other plants with their traditional uses she knew I was going to drag her into it, so she had put it on the to-do list), various nature hikes that fulfill Junior and Brownie requirements, taking snacks (also fulfilling various Junior and Brownie requirements), and learning the ins and outs of Finding Your Way. Wisconsin council has a cool bird-watching badge, a forestry badge, and a prairie badge that I'm hoping we can work into our hikes. It all seems like a great way to spend these sunny, crisp fall days.

Scouting is getting to be more and more fun as I get the hang of how to enjoy it.

31 October 2007

October's Unfinished Object

Last year at this time I had the clever idea that I should knit a Klein Bottle Hat for my nephew at Purdue (the nephew that was recipient of the Purdue moebius scarf).

And, lands-a-livin', Knitty even had a pattern! It was fate!

Then I came to my senses. What does a communication major want with a bunch of geeky topological knitting? (Also, I maybe got distracted by something more interesting that came along, and set the hat to one side and forgot about it until I was looking for that set of knitting needles the other day.)

Geriatric Cat is not impressed. It's taking up too much room on her towel (she sleeps on a towel for reasons I hope I don't need to explain given that my life seems to revolve around this particular subject and I'd like to spend at least 30 seconds thinking about something else other than what feline bodily fluids I need to go clean up). Sooooooo...


Someday I hope to find a UFO around here that I don't end up ripping up. Maybe next month's UFO Resurrection, which I think is lurking in my nightstand.

Tuesday Teatime

Happy Halloween!

Our teatime yesterday featured Halloween cookies from the grocery store, and apple cider. While thinking about Halloween poetry I remembered James Whitcomb Riley's Little Orphant Annie. Perfect!

My dad is a fan of Riley, and can recite Little Orphant Annie from memory. Having heard him recite it many times helped tremendously with being able to read it aloud -- I don't do well with dialect, and generally try to stay away from it in read alouds. But I had an internal sense of the rhythm of the poem, and even knew bits from memory myself.

I also read Riley's Old October and An Autumnal Tonic (the latter isn't in dialect; I chose it to show that the man could write in plain English, too). Then Kid1 requested The Bear, another piece my dad can recite from memory. Again, I don't think I could've done it justice with a cold reading had I not a memory of listening to my dad.

(And, yes, I called Dad later and told him about our teatime and his contributions.)

Then we got down to the serious business at hand -- Trick or Treat jokes. It's a St. Louis tradition for kids to tell jokes when they Trick-or-Treat (my theory: this may be a holdover from Martinmas celebrations, maybe from the German neighborhoods years ago).

Some we're considering:

What do you get when you cross Bambi and a ghost?


What does a monster call humans?

Breakfast, lunch and dinner.

What do you call a fat jack-o-lantern?

A plumpkin.

30 October 2007

In With the In Crowd

Yes, I got my Ravelry invite. So now I can join about 40,000 of my closest friends in discussing knitting and crocheting, and generally sucking huge chunks of time out of my day on this new entertainment.

I'll admit, I wasn't going to bother with beta Ravelry. I didn't see the point. Okay, yeah, I knit and crochet. I've done both for years. And, honestly, it doesn't strike me as a big deal. Saying "I knit" is about like saying "I read" or "I give people Christmas presents' or "I drive".

(Also, saying "I knit" in order to impress y'all makes me think of saying "I pee on the floor" in order to impress someone, but that's a comparison that probably needs an explanation.

Years ago, when I was in high school, some younger cousins came to visit. The youngest of the bunch was about 2 or 3 years old. During dinner he decided he really really wanted to make an impression on this high school girl [me] at the table, so he came over next to my chair with an expression on his face that said, "I'm gonna knock your socks off", batted his eyelashes flirtatiously, and announced, "I pee on the floor" in a voice that let us all know that he knew exactly what a girl looks for in a guy.

I've been thinking about that incident a lot lately since Geriatric Cat has decided that standing in the vicinity of the litter box is good enough, and it's not her fault if she pees on the floor. Lord help me, I desperately want some Kitty Depends for this cat. But it's a step up from peeing on the bathroom rugs or peeing on our bed, so let us rejoice in the fact that she's sort of making an effort, even if it is a poor one.

Okay, end digression.)

Two things tipped me towards joining. NUMBER ONE: I'd really wanted to find something like sewing.patternreview.com for knitting patterns, and it occurred to me that this might be it, and NUMBER TWO: Lorraine joined, and even though I didn't know Lorraine and hadn't ever read her blog before, I was pretty sure I was missing out if she was in Ravelry and I wasn't (if someday it is revealed that Lorraine is the universal nexus of fiber trends, I, for one, won't be surprised since I intuited it about a month ago).

Okay, so I'm signed in, but I probably won't do anything with my new Ravelry status because I need to go mow the lawn, clean up the pumpkin seeds all over everything after our pumpkin-carving extravaganza, and mop the cat pee off the floor. Because, in addition to saying "I knit", I also can say "I mow", "I carve pumpkins" and "I clean up after the cat". Y'all know where to find me if you need me.

Another Road Trip

St. Louis has finally cooled down into autumn, and I'm dying to cast on for a sweater for myself. Ooooh, that would be perfect about now, wouldn't it? What with the hint of frost in the air and the leaves turning, wouldn't it be wonderful to be knitting something all wooly and cable-y for my own pleasure?

But my 2007 Parade of Unfinished Objects has inspired me to stay on task. So, when we packed up to go on a road trip, I took knitting to which I had already commited myself. (And while I'm feeling so virtuous about that, I also decided to tuck my prepositions in neatly, even though it made for a lumpy sentence just now.)

In other words, it was a very, very boring trip in regards to the knitting.

I worked on Counterpoint from Magknits -- mild-mannered black and white stripe scarf from one angle:

Clever illusion-knitted piano keyboard from another angle:

It's for Mrs. Piano-Teacher for Christmas. Mrs. Piano-Teacher knits. A lot. I'm not sure it she's ever seen illusion knitting, though, and I thought she'd get a kick out of this.

I also worked on The Socks Formerly Known As All-But-Kitchenered (Shaun's term in the comments, which has now stuck in my head as the name of the socks):

Mid-way through the heel flap of sock 2. We don't have dance class this week, so I'm unable to wave them in front of snarky dance-moms. Actually, it would be better to simply show up with them totally done. Except they don't fit me (they're a Christmas present), so I'd have to be casually carrying them or something.

Anyway, you may be wondering "why were you on a road trip?". (And if you weren't wondering that, you can stop reading now.)

This was the weekend that Kid2 made the pilgrimage to that most sacred site for middle-class caucasian 8-year-old girls. Yes, the fantastic, amazing, awe-inspiring Aunt E took her to American Girl Place in Chicago. To let you know what a rite of passage this is, last week Kid2 discovered that one of her good friends (also a middle-class caucasian 8-year-old girl) was going to be there at practically the same time, transported there by her grandparents. Expect much squealing when they see each other later this week and compare notes on the experience.

We drove to my parents' place in Indiana, and Aunt E picked up Kid2 for the trip to Chicago. This left us to hang out at the retirement center where Mom and Dad have an apartment. The retirement center is within reasonable driving distance from a place you can go horseback riding (not that any of the retirees go horseback riding on a regular basis, other than my parents, who consented to go along with us). It was a glorious fall day, and a great day to be out in the woods on horseback.

(Aside: it was also a great day to drag all of your trash into your back yard and set it on fire, judging from the number of people we saw doing that. Or maybe people in Indiana are trying to recreate the California fires. I don't know. But it was sort of weird how many people were out doing it last Friday.)

We also stopped by an apple orchard. MrV has a quest for unpasteurized apple cider every fall; it's getting harder and harder to find the stuff. The cider we found this year is amazingly good. Skiles Orchard, folks.

The retirement center also has a bowling alley. Four lanes, lots of shoes and bowling balls to choose from (including switching shoes and/or ball mid-game). Hand scoring, so you're not locked into bowling in a certain order or a certain number of frames. You'd be amazed how much a 12-year-old can bowl when given a chance to run down and do it for free whenever she wants. It's safe to say I bowled more this weekend than I have in the past 10-15 years. Also, I got my bowling groove on to the point where, yes, I actually bowled 2 strikes in a row in the final frame of the final game we bowled over the weekend allowing me to BEAT MRV.

MrV and my dad also made it to Purdue's homecoming. Kid1 worked on various Junior Girl Scout badges that involved hanging around large amounts of old people, although we weren't able to find any women that were Girl Scouts between 1912 and 1950 (we will continue quizzing the retirees about that when we return for another visit -- the odds are in our favor, given the age group we're hanging around with there).

Overall, other than the boring knitting, it was a fun trip. And I get to feel virtuous about the knitting. It's a winning combination.

24 October 2007


We have 2 huge boxes of costumes downstairs. Actually, they're those boxes the moving companies use to move your clothing from your closet -- the tall ones with a hanger rack. I cut them down some, and we hang up a lot of our costumes in them. Other costuming accoutrements (hats, gloves, tiaras) are stored elsewhere (okay, generally they're strewn all over the basement floor).

Our latest addition, finished just in time for The Big Day, the day we take our show door-to-door through the neighborhood:

Simplicity 0523/3626, in a size that doesn't appear anywhere on the pattern (not that I'm bitter that I had to resize 18 billion frickin' pattern pieces since they couldn't include a size 6 on their stupid pattern). It was hard to photograph due to the glare of all the shimmery fabric. Also hard to photograph without anyone in it, and the intended wearer is upstairs asleep. What you're looking at is a pair of I Dream of Jeanie pants with a matching top laying on them -- there, now does it make sense?

Yes, this is the reason I haven't been blogging or even cleaning the house or cooking decent meals the past few days -- I've been putting together fabric, overlay, contrast fabric, miles of trim, and boatloads of velcro.

For the record, the other child has very sensibly decided (currently**) to dress as something easy for Halloween: salmonella. This will involve wearing white, and carrying around her "little sister Sally" in a basket with some fake eggs. She bravely attempted to convince her sibling to wear a hospital gown so she could play a victim of salmonella, but the lure of all the glittery fabric has proven too strong for that sibling (plus there was Mommy growling under her breath "I spent hours making this damn costume, I expect to see you in it" in a threatening manner).

**This could change in an instant, of course.

18 October 2007

Reflecting on the past week

It's been a blur:

Homeschool class at zoo, 1.5 hours plus driving time.

Homeschool class at Science Center, 1.5 hours plus driving time.

Lead 15 Brownies in Plants Try-It field trip, 2 hours plus driving time, plus large chunks of time explaining where and when we were meeting. Plus get there early to Be Prepared (and also make sure I made it there without getting lost, which has sort of been a theme for living in St. Louis -- every time I make it straight to the correct place a cheer goes up in the car).

Conceive of and execute a plan to get a Junior Girl Scout to her field trip for Science in Everyday Life badge in a different location (about 45 minutes away from where the Brownies were).

(The above 2 activities involved doing things like having to make phone calls to people I barely knew. This is so far outside my comfort zone I felt like I needed a passport.)

Swimming lesson.

Piano lessons (had to be rescheduled to different time slot due to other stuff going on).

Dance lessons (ditto on the rescheduling).

Choir and youth group.

Take cat to vet. Pick up cat from vet. Figure out how to get antibiotics into cat. Note: if you've ever wondered what would happen if that abcess bursts on its own without having it drained by the vet, let me tell you, it stinks. Literally. Stinky pus is inside that abcess. And then you have to go to the vet anyway since you can't clean in properly without shaving, and the cat's fur is so thick and the cat so wiggly when you try to clip fur in that spot that he needs to be tranquilized. Plus he needs antibiotics. And the vet tries to say, "Well, he saved you the cost of having me drain it," but the vet doesn't realize that the cat decided to lay on your new, clean fabric after the abcess (full of stinky pus) burst.

Help child pack for her first camping trip. Take child to drop off location for the trip. (Actually, we haven't done that last bit yet. That happens this afternoon. I'm pretty sure I can get straight to the place without getting lost. I mean, we've driven by the place before, although we've always been on the highway, and it's on some side street. I'm assuming I can figure out which side street it's on. Heh.)

Overall, a good week for that Multum non Multa homeschooling style. I think we've managed some math and Latin most days.

What the Well-Dressed Scout Will Be Wearing to Sleep In at Camp

And the Camp Leaders spake unto the Junior Scouts, saying, "Thou shalt bring jammies with pants to camp. Also, thou shalt bring a stocking cap to sleep in, just in case the weather turns bitterly cold. For lo, we control much, but not the weather."

And the Junior Scout moaned and cried out, "Mommy, I have no jammies with pants."

And the Mommy replied, "Fear not, for we have that pattern you used in sewing classes last summer to make capris -- we'll just make the full length version. Also, I think a soft wool hat would keep your head warmer and more comfortable, so let's look at yarn."

Jammie pants from Butterick 3314, except this time we walloped off part of the torso, since when she made it over the summer it looked like those old-man pants that come up to a person's armpits.

"Gee, Gail, I don't recognize that fabric from that huge pile you just got ."

Ahem. Yes. Well, good for you memorizing my fabric stash. But I can now leave my house (via the new steps, even!) and go to the fabric store. And purchase more fabric. So. Moving along....

The hat is out of Cascade Pastaza Paints in color Forrest, and it is wonderfully soft. I knit it up on size 10.5 needles -- I think 10s would've been better, but I found the 10.5s, and am not sure whether or not I own 10s. Kid1 picked the color -- she wanted variegated green, and wanted a pink stripe (out of some WoolEase we had around) to jazz it up. I sort of like how the greens pooled in swirly stripes.

So I'm at dance class finishing up this hat, right? And this other mom asks, "What happened to the sock you were knitting? Did you finish it?"

"No. I still have to kitchener the toe [aside: all knitters know that kitchenering the toe is a tiny little thing, yet something you don't want to do while standing around waiting for your kids to come out of dance class]. Plus I was sort of sick of it. So I'm knitting this for [daughter for whom I should come up with clever blog-name]'s camping trip this coming weekend."

"Oh." Then, in That Voice, "So, you have just have one partly done sock." And walked away.

I laughed and called after her, "Hey, all it needs is to be kitchenered."

First of all, you don't use That Voice to diss a sock that only needs to be kitchenered -- it reveals that you have no idea what needs to be done to the sock to complete it.

Second of all, you don't use That Voice on the reigning Queen of That Voice. Give me a break. Your paltry efforts at That Voice are likely to earn you That Look from me.

And I let you know that That Voice didn't do its job by laughing and shrugging off your statement, which I now publish so more easily intimidated knitters will learn to roll their eyes and shrug off people like you. Also, I'm publishing it because everyone else says they sometimes get weird comments from folks about their knitting, and I always say, "Gee, no one ever says anything like that to me." So, this is either a first, or else I usually ignore comments like this as unworthy of my attention. Either way it works for me.

16 October 2007

RightStart Geometry

Woohoo -- the book is finished!

Of course, now we have all the lessons that haven't yet been put in the book. The website has downloads of several lessons. I haven't printed them out yet. But still, it's exciting.

As to why I haven't been giving much description of what's been going on with RightStart Geometry, well, it's because I've had less and less to do with it. Kid1 deals with it all pretty much on her own. I deal a little with the fallout, such as when she paused too long between lessons and apparently forgot how to do basic trig (much weeping and gnashing of teeth that week). And occasionally she would ask me a question....

Wow, did it ever reach the point where I couldn't answer questions, since I hadn't been following along. Yes, I can do trig, but I'm not really tip-of-the-tongue with it. I would stare blankly at whatever diagram she was showing me ("Mommy, I need to know this interior section of this pyramid so I can compare it to this cone" -- ick, I just remembered that I did dislike parts of math back in school, particularly anything to do with cones). And the answer sheets don't really go step by step through the logic of solving the problem. Or maybe they do, but not in enough detail for me -- I want them to explain it like Mr. Broman did years ago in high school trig, and the answer sheets are more like that TA in that Saturday morning math class freshman year at Purdue.

Also, one memorable occasion I used the phrase "well, you need to isolate x on one side", and, gees, you'd have thought I'd announced she needed to sacrifice her firstborn on a flaming pyre. "That's algebra! I don't know algebra!" Um, yes, you just did it in all of these problems up here without realizing it.

All of which is leading me to consider what to do next -- what program will we try once all of this is done. I'm factoring in her flair for drama about math concepts she doesn't instantly comprehend, as well as my dislike of cones. Where do we go from here?

15 October 2007

Forging Ahead Through October

The Concrete Guys have come and gone, taking their noise and mess (well, except for all the muddy bits where we need to put grass or mulch or something). They really were an exemplary work crew, arriving around 6am every day, beginning work before 7am and working steadily for the entire day. Once I glanced out the door and saw a guy with a sandwich in one hand sweeping off the step with the other hand, apparently not willing to stop for lunch.

Yes, this was a private company. They were fixing the mistakes of the crew who originally built the place many years ago. That original crew has moved to Ami's city, and now work for the public works department putting in streets and curbs in Ami's neighborhood. (Oh, I am so witty this morning. Did I mention that I've been up since 4:30? On purpose, even, with the alarm clock going off then and all. And guess what -- most of this week is going to be like that.) (By the way, I meant to link to one of Ami's posts about the concrete guys on her street, but Blogger disagrees with that concept. If you normally read Ami's blog you know what a fun bunch she had working over there this summer.)

The first day was extremely noisy and mind boggling. I spent it ordering fabric:

Sewzanne's was having a sale. That's 9 different cuts of fabric, most at least 2 yards. It arrived a few days later; I opened the box and had no memory of why I ordered most of it. It was sort of like getting a present from someone else, with the someone else being my alternate personality.

I also sewed. The Easy Pants/design #37 from Ottobre 4/2006, in size 170:

I didn't have any fabric for the pocket facing, and no good way to go get some what with the concrete equipment all over the place (not to mention the lack of steps out the door), so I used some funky Hello Kitty fabric purchased years ago. Kid1, the intended recipient liked that detail, since it doesn't show at all in normal wear. Other than that, she doesn't like the pants. But, aha, I do, and they fit me. Except that the drawstring is all wonky -- I centered it over the fake fly instead of over the front seam. So I need to take off the waistband and twitch it around a bit.

We did manage to get quite a bit of schooling done once the noisiest pounding was over. When you have a crew arriving before dawn every day you're inspired to get up and out of those jammies and right to work. Heck, Kid2 was finished with most of her work by 9am Wednesday, and asking if it was time for lunch yet.

But we plan to return to the abyss of homeschool slothdom this week. We'll also be running around 3 times as much as usual to make up for being stuck inside last week. Unfortunately, I'm not exaggerating. Sigh.

09 October 2007

Abandoning All Hope of Coherent Thought

A guy is running a large drill about 15 feet from me. He/They are breaking up our porch. It is loud. It makes the house shake.

(For the record, the geriatric cat is okay with this, as she has gone somewhat deaf. So, if you were wondering how this effects the cat, there you have it.)

Since I cannot string a line of thought together due to the uproar, blogging will be suspended. Possibly for several days, given that we will then have to catch up on our homeschooling and life in general.

On the other hand, I'm pretty sure this is a good time to order fabric online. And maybe yarn. And books. Lots of little (or big) comforts to look forward to.

03 October 2007

The Perfect Outfit for Kit

If you're unfamiliar with the American Girl pantheon, Kit is the doll that represents the Depression Era. You know, when people made do with what they had, and didn't spend a bazillion bucks on doll accessories.

So, it seemed fitting to make an outfit for Kit by cutting up old clothes:

Actually, I had been a bit too efficient on getting rid of MrV's old plaid shirts, so I had to buy a bit of blue plaid from the fabric store for 50 cents (he still had a blue plaid shirt that would've been perfect, but he wouldn't let me near it with the scissors). The turtleneck is from a pique golf shirt. The pattern is once again from Joan Hind's Sew the Essential Wardrobe for 18-Inch Dolls. Once again I modified the pattern, particularly giving the turtleneck a back velcro closure since I think pulling a turtleneck over a doll's head is the pits.

By the way, this post should no be taken as meaning that anyone here actually owns a Kit doll. The outfit was made as a birthday present. The birthday girl will be travelling to American Girl Place with a dear aunt sometime soon to make The Big Purchase -- she already has a Welcome Home sign hanging in her room for the day Kit arrives.

Harvest Time

Did you know deer eat tomatoes?

I knew they eat coleus, even if you have them in a pot by the front door. And, of course, they eat hosta and daylilies.

But, apparently there's nothing quite like a juicy tomato on a hot summer night. Even if it's off of a plant in a pot on someone's patio. I think they might eat the blossoms, too.

The kids were thrilled to nab these two before the deer got them. And this is the total harvest for 2007.

26 September 2007

UFO Resurrection for September

This is my most embarrassing Unfinished Object.

You know, it takes quite a lot to embarrass me when it comes to my knitting. This is possibly because I am delusional about my abilities. Or maybe I've just reached a point where I don't care what other people think.

But this is even beyond my skill at rationalization.

It's the Unifinished Object that is also Forgotten:

And when I say "Forgotten" I mean that I have no idea what this is. I know I knit it. I know that it's some pink Rowan Calmer with a circular needle stuck in it. I know that it looks like it had another circular needle stuck in it which has now been pulled out to be used for something that struck me as more important at the time.

And I know that it was stuck in a bag with a couple of sock patterns. It's obviously not a sock.

No clue. Only a vague clue where any more of this yarn might be. I remember purchasing the yarn in 2006 with the intent of making the Hourglass Sweater from Last Minute Knitted Gifts. I also remember that I while I was swatching it occurred to me that the sweater would look bad on me, especially in that color. So I cast on ... this ... instead. Hmmmm.

So, rippity rip rip, and we've decluttered another Unfinished Object.

Tuesday Teatime

We're continuing our 2007 theme of celebrating major Chinese holidays. This week brings us the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival.

As usual, my main reference was Moonbeams, Dumplings & Dragon Boats by Nina Simonds, Leslie Swartz, and the Children's Museum of Boston.

Of course, you can't have an Autumn Moon Festival without moon cakes. I made my own based on the recipe in the book, which is quite similar to this recipe:

I didn't have a moon cake mold, obviously. I started out putting various Chinese symbols on them with a knife, but ended up just making random designs. Also, instead of making my own filling I just used coconut-covered date rolls, which can be purchased at Whole Foods or Trader Joe's.

The moon cakes are to be eaten by the light of the moon, but out weather forecast was for clouds and rain. Our compromise was to have tea time after supper. We used a red tablecloth for good luck, and brought out many of our Chinese knick knacks. We also had grapes on the table (because they're round like the moon), and lit many candles:

Our beverage was choice of decaf tea or blackberry juice (the blackberry juice was in honor of upcoming Michaelmas -- sometimes we mix our holidays, especially when there are so many interesting ones all in the same week).

We read the story of Chang E and Hou Yi, and we read about hiding notes in the moon cakes to overthrow the mongols.

Later that night, after the kids were ready for bed, we realized that the moon had magically appeared from behind the clouds. We all ran outside to see it hanging so bright and round and heavy. We looked for and found the Jade Rabbit in the moon. We looked for Chang E, but didn't see her -- perhaps Hou Yi had already come to visit, and they had retired to the jade palace?

25 September 2007

A Mnemonic

Kid1 was reading a zoology book to Kid2. They were discussing taxonomy. They were discussing figuring out their own mnemonic to remember classification -- kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species.

"Okay, we're supposed to come up with a sentence that uses the first letter of each of those words, see? So the first word will start with K."


For pete's sake, it was time for Star Trek! Do you know how long kids can linger over a puzzle like this? It was a crisis, and I felt I simply had to intervene.

"Klingon!..." I exclaimed (since it was time for Star Trek), pointing to the K, "...potty chairs!..." (always a popular phrase to insert) ...

"Klingon potty chairs on freighters glow softly! See, sometimes the lights on the Klingon freighters are low...wait a minute, do Klingons even have freighters, or do they just fly around on Birds of Prey?"

"Yes, they have freighters, " my Trekkie daughter assured me.

"Okay, then, sometimes they keep the lights low, so they have the potties glow in the dark so they can find them." Those Klingon ships always do seem sort of dark to me, you know.


I feel confident that she will remember this mnemonic the rest of her life. Can you picture her chanting that in college?

Best of all, they were able to finish up the project, turn on the TV and watch Star Trek. Which, wouldn't you know it, featured Klingons.

24 September 2007

Iggly Plops!

What is an iggly plop? Well, that's what giants call "little people" -- iggly means little, and plops are people, at least in the language of Groilish. And, according to Julia Donaldson, Groilish is what the giants speak.

We discovered the language of Groilish, as well as much more about giants, in Donaldson's book The Giants and the Joneses. This was one of our read alouds last week, and definitely our favorite book of the pile. Within a few days we were all speaking Groilish (there's a dictionary in the back of the book). Shoot, I wish we could pick up Latin as easily as we picked up this imaginary language. Maybe Julia Donaldson needs to write fiction in which the characters speak Latin or Greek -- that would be huge help to our homeschooling efforts.

It maybe weeks before we stop calling beans "bimples" (the book refers to many journeys up and down a bimplestonk) and stop referring to the cat as a "spratchkin".

I can already see that this is going to be one of those books we talk about for years to come. Sharing books together as a family is so cool. I should write thank you letters to the authors of our favorites. Well, assuming the authors are still alive. And in Julia Donaldson's case we'd write a letter saying "oidle oy!".

23 September 2007

Another Weekend, Another Feis

The Graham Feis flew by for us.

We checked in on Friday night, and the girls were each given a bag of Teddy Grahams as their "Graham Treat" (cute, eh? Although, if someone hadn't explained it to me, I never would've gotten the pun). We had some time to explore the DoubleTree hotel and figure out where the stages were. Stages 1,2,3, and 4 were all on the indoor tennis courts in the sports center.

MrV spent much of the evening reprising Ceili Band. It appears to be our feis themesong. Not that we remember any more of the song than we did 3 weeks ago (I'm getting him the CD for Christmas, I swear). At this point we've started inserting the line "we're a Ceili Band!" randomly into most of the songs we sing.

Since the kids were dancing on stages 3 and 4, we opted to park at the sports center's entrance the next morning (hurrah for us for knowing that there was a separate door and parking lot back there, as the tennis courts are a looooong hike from the front entrance of the hotel). As a bonus, the sports center also has nice locker rooms, which we used to slip into the don't-wear-in-the-car-lest-you-crush-it school dress. Can I tell you how nice it is to use an actual locker room instead of a tiny bathroom or hallway corner to change in? Absolute luxury.

This is what it looked like on the tennis courts early Saturday morning. That's Kid1 and Kid2 warming up in the front left of the picture.

There was a heavy chemical funk in the air, and it was warm and cozy, but as the morning progressed they kicked up the HVAC -- it cooled off some, and the smell was tolerable. I don't know if it was from the finish they painted on the stages or something else. By the way, the stages really did look nice. They had advertised that dancers wouldn't need to tape their shoes, and I think they were right (nb: you put duct tape on the bottom of your hardshoes to help prevent slipping if you're dancing on a wonky surface).

As I said, the feis flew by for us. No knitting was accomplished -- there was no time! The First Feis and Beginner 1s went through all of their dances right after the team dances. The kids were zipping up to the check in almost as soon as they were finished dancing; at one point the check in for their next dance was while they were on stage. We were finished by about 11AM or so. We hung around a bit to see results (some of the slip jig results disappeared for awhile -- as in "over an hour" -- so we were killing time).

During this time we wandered over to stage 8, which was the Arts and Crafts competition. And, you know what? I could've thrown my socks on that table, and won a prize. Well, except I was wearing the socks that irishgirlieknits knit for me, so really she would've been the one to win, not I (but, she's done the feis-thing before, so that would've been appropriate). Anyway, I need to do some Celtic crafting, no doubt. And figure out how to enter into that part of the feis.

Speaking of wandering around, this feis snaked all over the place. It was amazing! Our area of stages 1-4 was wonderfully compact (not crowded at all, but everything we needed was right there), but the trip over to the Feisworx room was a major hike. I think the more advanced dancers had more of a chore to get from place to place, as they were in various meeting rooms here and there.

The kids' scores were ... interesting. Kid1 did her reel with grace and confidence, the best I've ever seen her do. Her score was way below those of the girls who placed. Kid2 forgot her hornpipe halfway through; she place 3rd out of 6 competitors, just 2 points from the winner, with the sole comment of "timing" (umm, yeah, her timing sort of slipped when she slowed down to remember what the steps were). So, we just shrug and say, "that's a feis for ya", and go on with life, I guess. After all, we're at Beginner 1 level, so it isn't as though the scores greatly affect much of anything. I imagine it starts getting more cutthroat at Beginner 2, and the pressure builds as you work up through the levels, since where you place affects what level you're considered to have attained.

We also saw the PC/OC girls dance their 8-hand, during which one of the musicians messed up. THAT was interesting. I heard a mom ask, "does the judge realize the musician messed up, not the dancers?" I think the judge is supposed to be in charge of the musician, right? so theoretically the judge should know. (If you don't hang out in the Irish Dance community, PC/OC is the elite level Beginner 1s dream about.)

(Let me insert here that I think the job of the feis musicians seems unbearably dreary to me, and they must be very special people to take on the task. The musicians sit there hour after hour after hour playing the music over and over and over. One mistake in 8 hours isn't a bad average. I was just interested to see what happens and how everyone reacts when someone makes a mistake like that. Overall, I think all feis musicians deserve medals just for showing up.)

And we saw a foot injury when 2 of the girls ran into each other; one of them had to be carried off the stage. I think she was crying from the sheer tension of the contest as much as from the pain.

One of the most interesting sights was the discovery of private baton lessons at the Doubletree! The kids took baton lessons back in Ohio. This Irish Dance mania has somewhat replaced that activity. But it's still a bit of information to tuck away, should we decide to go back in that direction.

Best of all, we were home in plenty of time to tidy up the house and have a birthday party that night!

21 September 2007

If I Had a Completed Sock for Every Sock I've Knit...

Sheesh, if I actually completed all the socks I knit, I'd have socks for everyone in my family, plus pairs to spare.

Instead, I spend most of my time knitting, ripping, reknitting.

Boilermaker sock, take 1, the fussy, mosaic concept.

Boilermaker sock, take 2, the long, skinny version.

And, now, Boilermaker sock, take 3, the chunkier, possibly-could-fit version:

It's been a good week for sock knitting. We had a homeschool class at the zoo, and a homeschool class at the science center (and, yes, we actually made it this time), a Girl Scout meeting, a dance performance, and a piano lesson (by the way, it's been a crappy week for getting actual homeschool-at-home lessons done, as you can imagine). I turned the heel during piano lessons, and now do not have to worry about turning the heel during tomorrow's feis (bonus: the wonky stage assignments for Kid2's hornpipe appear to have been changed, too). All I have to cope with are the gusset decreases. Woohoo! Too bad I've totally lost interest in Irish Dance, and have moved on to a new obsession....

It happened rather abruptly, this loss of interest. Kid1's Girl Scout troop is planning a weekend camping trip for the fall. Kid1 has never been on a trip like this, so we were looking over the packing suggestions together -- it's sort of like gathering a trousseau, for pete's sake, with multiple pairs of underwear, multiple pairs of pants, 2 pairs of pajamas with pants ("hmm, you know, we could sew those"), hat for daytime, stocking cap for sleeping ("fleece or wool would be good for that, since it should be soft and snug"; "Do you think you could knit one in Junior Girl Scout green? With maybe a little pink trim? Wouldn't that be cool!"), multiple pairs of socks ("that's so if you get them wet you can change them; if they were made of wool it'd be really nice, wouldn't it, since wool stays warm even when wet ... wow, would you want me to handknit socks for this?"; "No, I'd rather have the hat"; too bad, I want to make the socks anyway), etc. And, well, before you know it, we're pulling out sewing patterns and knitting patterns, and looking over yarn and fleece and flannel options.

Here's the problem we're having with the packing list: she's outgrown practically all of her clothing. She can use a lot of my clothing on this trip since 1) she is now as tall as I am, and weighs almost as much as I do, and 2) all of my clothing looks like it's spent a few weeks grubbing around a campsite already, so it's not like she's going to ruin it. But we do need to get some items for her (after all, she has no cool weather clothing that fits whatsoever), and why not drive ourselves crazy trying to make it all ourselves? I mean, that's the way we do things around here, after all. And the camping trip gives us a deadline, so we aren't still trying to get around to this, oh, say, next March.

As to whether the Boilermaker socks ever get finished, well, who knows. If I'd knit straight through without ripping I'd already have a pair. As it is, I have half a sock, and a head full of ideas for other things I want to knit (or sew) instead of these.

18 September 2007

Help! I'm being sucked into an Irish Dance vortex!

The other day, after dance class, I looked out in my backyard to see these strange creatures hanging out under the playset:

Within 24 hours they had metamorphed into something more like this:

That's 3-hand they're doing, by the way. It's mostly taught in ceili class, although apparently my kids have picked up enough in regular classes to do it well enough for the crowd at the parish fair.

About once per month their teacher comments, "They really should be in ceili class."

And I counter, "You're probably right, but ceili meets on blah-ti-blah night, and that's when swim class meets."

Yesterday morning I got an email from her. "Good news! Ceili for under-8s is now on blee-ti-blee night!" Kid2 is in under-8. So, both kids could now do ceili since the under-12 ceili meets late enough on blah-ti-blah night we could make it.

So, when we arrived at dance class last night I started quizzing other parents -- how much of a commitment is ceili? The moms cried out "It's HUGE!" and the dads tended to just sort of snort that snort that means "you really don't want to know". I don't know how other schools do ceili, but ours sends the teams to Oireachtas (which a year ago I couldn't even pronounce, let alone consider having my kids compete in) (I'm pretty sure I'm still pronouncing it wrong). Competing in Oireachtas is a huge time commitment, as well as monetary -- there's the hotel stay, of course, plus a brand new wig just for the occasion, and a new pair of ghillies. And the competition pressure, I'm sure, is enormous.

But, you know, it would be sort of fun to see the solo competitions at Oireachtas. Just sayin'.

So. Sigh. I'm sure the kids would enjoy the class itself, and getting close to the other families on the team would be cool, and I'm sure it would help the kids' technique. But. The extra-curricular activites are such a delicate balancing act, and this could easily send the whole thing toppling.

In the meantime, I announced that I had reached a significant turning point in my career as an Irish Dance mom -- I want to buy my child a wig because I'm sick of putting hair up in spikes. We have a feis this Saturday, so I will be spiking 2 heads of hair again on Friday (this works out to 5 days out of 8 that I'm messing around with dance classes, performances, hair, or dance competition here in mid-September).

Saturday's feis is obviously planned specifically to drive me crazy. First, they scheduled it in September, a hugely busy month for me. They also scheduled it at a point when my knitting will involve turning a sock heel, which, as I've said before, I can't do well at a feis. I'm almost positive the feis committee discussed these things when setting up this feis. It's beyond coincidence.

Plus they've posted the stage assignments, and, well, they're weird. All over the place they announce that they have 7 stages. And then I read the stage assignments and discover that Kid2 is dancing hornpipe on stage 8. Well. Now. That's interesting. Is she going into the Twilight Zone for this competition? (Seriously, if you read through everything you discover that stage 8 is for arts and crafts, baking, and music. I'm hoping there's some sort of dance-able area to it, and we can figure out when the heck we're supposed to go to that room to dance. I'm pretty sure other kids from our school are in the same boat, and their moms probably aren't going to be fretting about sock heels at the time, so we can maybe just follow them around.)

By the way, yes, it's possible to buy an Irish Dance outfit from American Girl (although we don't much like this year's model). And it's possible to buy one from an online vendor such as this one. Joan Hinds has a pattern in her book Sew the International Wardrobe for 18-inch Dolls, which is probably what I'd go with, since I could make it look a bit like our school's dresses. Of course, we'd still need ghillies and some sort of headband or tiara.

What's funny about all this is that we're not even very Irish.

17 September 2007

To Every Thing There Is a Season

It's time to admit to myself that I'm not going to get around to sewing up all of the summer clothing I had planned. I've put away the fabric piles, and started thinking about fall sewing.

The kids and I all need new capris and pants, having outgrown last year's wardrobe (I seem to be having a horizontal growth spurt).

But the first item on the seasonal checklist is Birthday Sewing. And this year that means making items for American Girls dolls.

So far Kirsten has a new dress:

I wasn't so sure about elasticized sleeves for Kirsten, but I looked over the birthday dress from American Girl and realized that they implied drawstrings for the short sleeves.

After I finished this dress I found some tiny pink checked gingham and some tiny white ric rac. I've been considering making the birthday dress, but, really, does Kirsten want a knock off?

To make the above dress I used Joan Hind's Sew the Essential Wardrobe for 18-Inch Dolls. I sort of used the cover dress. Except the skirt of the cover dress was too full, and the collar was all wrong, and I wanted to line the bodice, and I thought the skirt opening could be done better than shown in the book, and skirt side seams looked more attractive. And probably some other stuff I'm forgetting. But, the book was inspirational, and gave me a jumping-off point. And it took less than a day to zip together, from tracing out the pattern to sewing on the daisy trim around the hem and neck (which really stinks to sew on, by the way, either by hand or machine).

This dress was for one child who likes to celebrate her Swedish heritagevia Kirsten. Her sister found some fake daisies and made someting like Kirsten's birthday headdress.

As a matter of fact, her sister's birthday is coming up soon, too. Expectations are running high: "Mommy, I think you could make Kit's birthday dress or school jumper -- they look pretty easy." Umm, no, they look pretty freakin' impossible to me. But I think I can manage some sort of jumper.

September is birthday season here. No doubt about it.