16 September 2008

Whatever happened to ...

I haven't been posting here because I opened a new Blogger account and started a new blog.

Some readers here have already figured this out, and it occurred to me that by not posting the info here it sort of seemed like y'all aren't welcome over there. And, really, you are welcome.

New blog at: Tales of Homeschooling

30 July 2008

Work in Progress Wednesday

My sore throat seems to come and go. The past couple of days have seen me mostly languishing, moaning and complaining (although in a whisper, since it hurt to talk).

Since I've been sitting around, I've spent some time knitting on the Aleita shell:

It would be done if the SciFi network had followed their schedule of showing reruns of Star Trek Enterprise on Tuesday night. I was all ready to hunker down for an evening of Star Trek, knitting and self pity (have I mentioned I had a sore throat?), but they were showing something else. Bah. I made jerky instead. Hey, that's something else that's in progress here today -- it's till dehydrating.

I began the week with good intentions to make a top for myself. This is how far I've gotten:

Kwik Sew 3199. I'll make the short sleeve version. Some day.

While I was finding the pattern to take this picture I discovered that I'd also purchased a dress pattern that I'd totally forgotten about. Which is sort of disturbing considering that I just purchased these patterns about 2 weeks ago. I really need to clean up all of this sewing mess and get a grip on what's in these piles. The situation is becoming critical. Also, I'm using the dining room as a sewing room, and we have company coming over -- the kind of company that involves using the dining room for pastimes like "eating" and "socializing" and exotic stuff like that.

Okay. I just ate some chopped up raw garlic stuck in a blob of Really Raw Honey. My throat is feeling better already! Perhaps because my body is in fear that I'm going to repeat that -- it was touch-and-go on whether I was going to keep it down, and my breath is startlingly strong now. I think I'm ready to tackle the day, finish up these projects, and move on with life.

28 July 2008


Here's what I'm looking forward to this week: that it won't be last week. Not that last week was bad, but I'd rather cover some fresh ground, know what I mean?

Last week featured Vacation Bible School for Annabeth. I didn't help out with it, except that I did get her there early every day and then turned around almost immediately and picked her back up.

It also featured a trip for MrV which involved dropping him off and picking him up at various local airports since his travel plans are quirky that way. Not Scott AFB, though, in reference to Julie's comment.

The black linen blend capris are done. They are successful, other than the fact that I decided I hated all of the buttons I own and just sort of slapped a couple of dark ones on that don't particularly match the fabric. I think I've figured out how to stabilize the waistband on linen-blend enough that it doesn't stretch out hideously by the end of the day. Not that it matters, since the rest of the pants stretch out to Queen Baggy Bottom proportions by the end of the day (linen relaxes and streeeeeeetches as you wear it, if you have't worked with or worn it before, so even if the item fits like a glove at 7am it will be a totally different size, notably in the butt region, by 9pm).

Well, actually I don't know if they are truly successful. They fit nicely by the end of last week. I had spent several days not really eating last week, so I think I probably lost some weight. At the beginning of the week I had some stomach thing going -- I thought it was mild food poisoning (calling it "mild" since I didn't die from it, although I emptied out everything I'd consumed, if you know what I mean) but maybe it was a virus. And followed that with a gawdawful sore throat that made it painful to swallow (by Wednesday night after dance class when Thalia complained her feet hurt I replied, "I can't even FEEL my feet -- my head, throat and ears hurt so much I don't know if my feet even still exist." Then I went and put several blankets on the bed since I was FREEZING, crawled in, and just wallowed in pain until the fever broke and the headache went away. Although the sore throat still comes and goes.).

When not driving family members thither and yon, nor moaning in self-pity about my various ailments, I got back to work on Aleita shell:

I was zipping through this thing earlier in the month, then reached the point where I was supposed to divide for the armholes and Just. Didn't. Want. To. So I didn't -- I just let it sit for a week or so. This week I picked it up again and started working on the fronts. I think I've got about 3-5 rows to go, then I'll do the back, block, and be done. It's an easy knit, and fairly fun (except for binding off the armhole stitches, apparently). But mostly I want it done so I can enter the Ravelympics with a clear conscious and no UFO languishing in the corner.

And I didn't even try to knit during the An Samhra Feis this weekend. I've learned that I don't get much good knitting done at feiseanna. MrV, though, took his laptop and got tons of work done. We were there at 7am to start getting the girls ready. Thalia danced in an 8 hand, 4 hand, and 3 hand; Annabeth was in an 8 hand and a 3 hand. Figure dances started at 8am, and Thalia dearly wanted to review the 4 hand with her team, hence the early start.

Both Thalia and Annabeth danced 7 solo dances. Thalia had already placed in everything except Single Jig; she once again placed in everything except Single Jig. Sigh. Her Single Jig competition was a merged competition -- in other words, they put 2 age groups together. This was done because there weren't enough entrants; you need 5 dancers to compete in order to have results worth considering. Annabeth placed in Reel. She didn't melt down about not placing in anything else, thankfully. She has now placed in Reel, Treble Jig and Slip Jig in various feiseanna. Also, her 3 hand got a second place, beating other 3 hands with more experienced dancers, so that was an ego boost.

As for me, I helped out some with the Preliminary Champion stage. This was a whole new world for me, as I've never been in PC-land before. For the record, Preliminary Champions (PC) are competing to enter Open Champion (OC), which is the top of the heap. The stage is large, the musicians really good, they have 3 judges analyzing all of their moves. They dance 2 at a time. Each girl is dancing different choreography -- they are not synchronized in any way, each is simply dancing her school's dance. Each girl has her arms held down straight to her sides, her shoulders squared, her head and eyes always pointing straight ahead, her expression not wavering. They're zipping around the stage, zig zagging, kicking HARD (these kids have incredibly powerful legs since they can't use their arms for balance or propulsion), often nearly knocking into each other, but never acknowledging those near-misses with so much as a blink of an eye. It looked like a giant game of chicken! Except in sparkly outfits.

Overall it was an okay feis. There were a couple of places where we had to changes stages rather than just stay on the same stage for the entire day. The stage managers were nice about re-shuffling the order of the dances so competitors could make it from stage to stage. At one point an entire stage was moved in an attempt to speed things up; the stage managers were very diligent about trying to find a little girl who seemed to have gotten lost in the shuffle.

And this week? NO DANCE CLASSES! Can you believe it? It's almost like having a normal life.

17 July 2008

Home Alone

The kids have been gone all day every day this week, and I'm just now getting into the swing of being home alone. At the beginning of the week I was running errands and doing housework while they were gone. Today I just came home and started sewing, slapping together a sandwich when I was hungry, and eating it while reading the computer. The dishes are piled high, and I just got around to making the bed.

I have descended into sloth.

I wonder what would happen if they were gone all day every day all school year long. Sort of a frightening thought.

But I have accomplished something, you know. I have turned fabric into a wearable garment, which is always a nice feeling.

I was going to make another pair of pants, but was seized by the sudden desire to make a skirt. No problem -- I had purchased a floral print, lining, zipper and petersham last summer in order to make a multi-gored skirt from Ottobre. But, alas, no matter how I fussed at the pattern pieces, I couldn't get them all to fit on the fabric. Hmmm....

But, aha, plan B. I had purchased some fabric for a blouse several months ago. Before I started cutting into it, though, I paused. Mostly I paused because I realized that I couldn't find my tape measure, but it also gave me time to think, "If I make this particular blouse, what am I going to wear it with?" And realized that I wanted to wear it with black linen, either a skirt or pants.

So, how about another go round with that capri pattern I'm trying to perfect? Off I went to JoAnn's to see if there was any black linen-blend in their 60% off section. There was. I also picked up a new tape measure, although I suspect the old one is somewhere in Thalia's room.

And there, back over near the tape measures, I discovered that juvenile prints are currently 50% off. And some of these are really, really cute. So I piled a bunch in my cart, figuring I'd use them someday for ... something. Except this one:

I wanted for a skirt for me.

When I got home, Thalia wanted it, too. Too bad she wasn't here, and it's already sewn up in my size. Well, actually, we're about the same size. But that's beside the point. It's mine.

Pattern is Ottobre 5/2007, #4 (also #3, #9, and #18, depending on whether you cut it bias, add pockets, add a sash, etc.).

I made it in size 38, since hope springs eternal that the size charts will be absolutely correct. I ended up taking in .5 inch at each side seam after I'd finished.

Goofy thing that went wrong:
Once again, the zipper. It's an invisible zipper, and somehow after sewing in one side I flipped the skirt totally around before sewing the other side. Sort of like when you're doing circular knitting and the directions say be careful not to twist work when casting on. That's pretty much exactly what I did with the skirt. Not precisely a moebius (since there were still 2 sides and 2 edges), but something a bit along those lines.

Music I associate with this:
I had Bungle in the Jungle running through my head the entire time. MrV had asked if I remembered who performed it, and I couldn't get it out of my head after that. Also, the fabric has a sort of animal skin background. By the way, there's a nice Youtube video of Bungle in the Jungle with pictures of tigers -- just google it.

I tried to drown it out by listening to The Teaching Company lecture on The History of the United States by Prof. Allen C Guelzo, and made it all the way through the slave trade by the time I finished the hem. But, still, it's Bungle in the Jungle that I associate with this, even though certain specific areas of the skirt remind me of The Massachusetts Bay Company.

Preferred snack of this project::
I have this thing about eating or drinking while sewing. I just gotta. I think it's something along the line of chewing a pencil during a math test or chewing your lip while thinking. Anyway, I polished off quite a lot of blueberries.

16 July 2008

Crazy Hair

The kids are going to day camp this week. Each day has a theme. For example, today is Crazy Hair Day.

"I look like a Who."

I skipped my yoga session this morning to help with this. But, according to Those Who Know, it's all yoga, right? Everything we do is part of the Practice, be it doing asanas or spraying neurotoxins all over our kids' heads. Or something like that.

I'm sure this left a trail of red and blue all over the shirts and floors and pretty much anything else they were near.

I saw some of the other kids arriving. There were some pretty original ideas. I hope the leaders took group photos.

The camp is a dance camp. As to why we're doing a dance camp the week after the kids attended a dance workshop, well, I am an idiot we didn't know about the workshop when we signed up for a camp.

You may argue that every day is Crazy Hair Day in Irish Dance, what with those wigs. You're right. But somehow this was more fun.

14 July 2008


We went to the Cardinals game the other evening. And Annabeth wanted to get nachos, so I went with her to get them.

On the way back to our seats I saw someone I sort of know, and stopped to chat for a minute. Except, gees, everyone in our section was yelling so loudly I could barely hear myself think, let alone carry on a conversation.

Annabeth and I got back to our seats, and I told MrV about our adventure.

Me: Oh, I saw so-and-so and he asked about yada yada yada ... hey, where'd you get the baseball?

MrV: I caught it.

Me: (Blank look while I absorb this information. How did he catch it? We are in the stands; the baseballs are down in the field. This does not make sense to me.)

MrV: When Pujols came up to bat I said, "He's gonna hit it up here and I'm gonna catch it," and that's what happened.

Me to Thalia: Did you see it?

Thalia: I ducked when I saw the ball coming.

For real he caught it. From the field to the stands.

11 July 2008

The Eternal Search for Pants That Fit

Now that the kids are done with the dance workshop you'd think they would eagerly jump into the opportunity to take pictures of me modeling sewing projects, but no. They're sleeping in and watching Leave It to Beaver. They didn't even bother going to the end-of-workshop pool party last night, citing extreme fatigue.

Which is all to say that I took pictures in the mirror again. The results were fuzzy. But they give a general idea of what I've been working on, which is pants.

Teri has assured me that if I ever get Ottobre pants to fit I will always be able to fit them, since Ottobre doesn't vary the fit, bless their souls. Last winter I worked on a pair of black dress pants which seemed to require acres of alterations and eventually got pitched. This summer I decided to try again, this time with a pattern for capris from issue 2/2007.

I started off by re-measuring myself, since I'm a growing girl (unfortunately in the wrong decades of life for that to be a compliment). The first thing I noticed is that I had cut out the winter pants in the wrong size, which would explain some of the problems I had with alterations. Doh. I'd made them a size too big.

So I thought, hey, why not simply try cutting the correct size and see how far off it is:

These are out of a linen blend on sale at JoAnn's. Not bad, but still very baggy at first. I ended up taking a half inch off of each side, pulling it in from the back so I wouldn't totally mess up the front pockets.

So I thought I'd try again, using more cheap linen blend. This time I figured I'd go down yet another size, since the next size down is a bit more than an inch smaller than the one I'd made, and that would match my alterations so far:

Whoops, too tight. But part of that was from totally blowing the fly front zipper. I'd decided that since I'd just done this exact pattern a couple of weeks ago I didn't need to look at the directions. Also, my method was sort of a mix of the Ottobre directions and Sandra Betzina's, neither of which I was terribly fond of. Which is to say, I had sort of winged it and it came out just fine the first time; the second time I wasn't so lucky. So after the pants were done I redid the zipper, reflecting on the fact that if nothing else I was getting pretty comfortable with deconstructing and reconstructing finished garments.

They're usable now. Particularly since my life seems to consist of 1) taking kids to dance classes, 2) going to the grocery, and 3) picking up books at the library.

I also left off the belt loops on the green pair, having decided that I'd never wear a belt with these anyway.

Thalia had been quite charmed with that green linen when I bought it. On the way to dance yesterday she got in the car and said, "My. Those are really green, aren't they." So I've apparently also facilitated a lesson in color choices. Thalia happens to have good color sense already, so I like to think something will come of this.

Next up, I have some stretch poplin that was on sale at Hancock's. And, yes, I have enough of it for the "outdoor pants" from issue 2/2007, which is pretty much the same pattern as this but with more length, some elastic business at the bottom of the legs, and some extra pockets. This time I'll leave more room in the hips, lengthen the crotch a tad (it wants to dip at the back waist), and find better directions for the fly front. I need to do something different with the back darts. The waist is still a bit big, and every version is saggy in the seat, as are many readymade pants I own -- snug in the hips, yet saggy bottomed. I"m pretty sure I can find an article or book that explains a "fix" for that, at least somewhat. Eventually I'll get it. Hope springs eternal, yes?

10 July 2008

Knitting. Yawn.

Ribbon Shell in Blue Sky Alapcas Dyed Cotton:

I cast this on because I was bored and I had the yarn and pattern.

I wasn't sure I'd like it. I kept saying I felt sort of tepid about it, and everyone who saw it said, "Oh, that's gonna be so cute!" (Note that by everyone I actually mean people hanging around the dance studio, since those are the only people I see. Really. We went to a Girl Scout event a couple of days ago, and I was sort of stunned to see so many people who aren't in Irish Dance and probably don't care about Irish Dance. Also, I had just about forgotten everyone's name, and couldn't rely on the Irish Dance choices of Mary, some form of Catherine, or Colleen as being "best guesses".)

I LOVE this yarn. So soft. So nice. I want to pinch its cheek and tickle its tummy.

The pattern? Eh, not so much. It's blocky and dumpy. Too heavy for hot weather, too skimpy for cooler weather. My theory is that everyone's thought that it was cute because of the model's shoes, which I wouldn't be caught dead in. Or maybe the extreme negative ease. I knit the smallest size, and it just doesn't fit me like the picture. I added length to the armholes, as they were way too tight, but I think they're still too tight for use as a vest. I crocheted around the neckline and armholes rather than picking up stitches and knitting -- at the front neckline it's a bit wonky, and needs to be tighter or else finessed with some elastic. The lower edge ribbing could also use some finesse and elastic.

Part of me wants to alter it by revamping the side seams using the serger, just to see what happens. But I'm not quite sure how my serger would handle this fabric. And then I wouldn't be able to reclaim the lovely yarn for a better project.

09 July 2008

Wigs and Makeup

Several people have commented on the wigs and makeup. Here's what I know about them. Bear in mind that I'm not an authority, so I may be dead wrong about this.

Curly hair is popular in Irish Dance. The head of our school points out that the curls bounce when you jump, so it looks really bouncy and like you're jumping really high when you've got a head full of curls. If you've been in dance or theater much you know it's all about the illusion, right?

I've read that the long curls became popular during the Shirley Temple era and never really went out of style. You can acheive them by rolling the hair on spikes. You put glop on each strand of hair, roll it up, and leave it for about 24 hours:

There are various ways of doing this. Some people go for fewer spikes, and then separate the big, fat curls out into several smaller curls once it's set. i imagine some people use faster drying hair products.

And a closer look:

As you can imagine, it's not that comfortable to sleep in. It takes at least an hour per head, so if you have multiple kids you will spend multiple hours doing this. It rules out going to a swimming pool to relax and cool off before a competition. If it rains on the way to the feis (competition) you're out of luck. Also, if you go to register for a feis the night before, and it involves walking through an Irish festival, you can pretty much expect drunks to want to poke your child's head in fascination. Plus, girls with short hair are pretty much out of the running for obtaining curls. So, for team competitions, it's easier to get a uniform look by having everyone wear wigs.

Some teams wear bun wigs -- they pull their hair up into a bun, and then just have a little curly hairpiece on that. The winning team in Annabeth's division chose this look. It was very nice and neat. Individual competitors will sometimes wear their hair "soft", which is to say that they don't go for the tight curls. Again, that's harder to do for a team, since we have kids with all sorts of day-to-day hair styles.

I've heard that there are rumbles about rules that young beginners should not be allowed to wear wigs to compete. I happen to disagree with that idea. As long as the curls are popular, you should be able to achieve them however you please. Of course, we could just ditch the entire idea of the curls, but I don't see that happening anytime soon. In the meantime, those in favor of ruling out wigs for young girls are welcome to take their spike-wearing daughters into a crowd of drunks and think about what the anti-wig rule accomplishes.

Currently there are rules in place that a young beginner cannot wear makeup, nor can she wear the glittery solo dresses. Annabeth was allowed to wear makeup for this event since it wasn't a local feis. She isn't allowed to for a regular competition. In the case of our team, the thought was that everyone should match, so one mom did all of the makeup. This was a good idea, since my own personal makeup kit is limited to mascara and chapstick. When they told me to go to the MAC counter to get the lipstick, etc., I was totally blank. Mac? Huh? "M-A-C, MAC, go to a department store like Macy's or Nordstroms." Each dancer on our team had her own lipstick, lipliner, eyeliner, and mascara. The woman in charge of the makeup provided the base, eye shadow and highlighter for Annabeth, having sensed, perhaps, that I was already way outside my have-a-clue zone.

Again, I don't think the winning team in Annabeth's division wore much (or maybe any) makeup. I don't know that they used tanner on their legs -- that's another thing. Young beginners cannot wear tanner in ordinary competition; but for this Annabeth had 3 layers of Boots self-tanner, along with a coating of Rimmel leg makeup, as did everyone else on the team. I was talking about the tanner to my hair guy, and he commented, "I'm Irish, and I know that the Irish don't tan. You're either pale white or else you're red with sunburn." Yeah, well. A lot of Irish dance has sort of diverged from the Irish roots. I mean, look at the solo dresses -- does anyone really walk around looking like that in Ireland? No.

Overall, Irish dance competitions have rules in place to keep the young beginners from going too overboard with the "look". In the beginning they concentrate on the dance. But at special competitions they can go for the look. And, as they get older and compete at higher levels they are welcome to pile on enough wigs, makeup, and bling to look like the drag queen segment of a Gay Pride parade , look like a bunch of escaped circus clowns satisfy their need to dress up whenever they compete.

08 July 2008

I Got Tagged I Got Tagged I Got Tagged

Staci at Writing and Living tagged me for a meme, which sent me into flashbacks of playing tag as a child. Was it better to be the kid everyone wanted to tag, or was it better to be the kid who was ignored? Oh, the politics of tag -- how did we survive it all?

She tagged me yesterday, but I thought I'd wait until today to answer because that way I'd have slept more and be more coherent. Great plan, but it didn't pan out since Thalia had dance class until 10:30, so we didn't get home until really late. So don't hold me to any of these answers, 'kay?

What was I doing 10 years ago?
Living in Dover, Delaware, and driving down to the beach every. single. weekend. Thalia was a toddler.

Five snacks I enjoy
Snapea Crisps.
Things involving peppermint.

Five things on my to-do list today
Take one or both kids to Reel/Treble Jig workshop.
Get everyone something to eat for lunch.
Go to Kit movie with Girl Scout troop.
Take Annabeth to ceili workshop.
Pick up Annabeth while dropping off Thalia for her ceili workshop.

Things I would do if I were a Billionaire
Replace the carpet here in the family room.
Hire a cat psychologist for Demon Kitty.
Buy really over-the-top Solo Dresses.

Five jobs I have had
Bookstore clerk.
Library clerk.
Librarian at law firm.
Interior landscaping.
General go-fer at landscaping firm.

Five of my Bad Habits
Cracking my toe knuckles.
Spending hours staring vacuously at the computer screen while surfing the Internet.
Running my fingers through my hair repeatedly, seeing if I can pull any hairs out.
Standing with my knees hyperextended.
Telling myself I'll floss "later".

Five places I have lived
Merrimack, NH
Millington, MD
Elkhart, IN
Evansville, IN
St. Louis, MO

Five random things about me
I have an acute sense of smell.
I think the concept of a grass lawn is overrated.
I like to kick my shoes off.
I can recite an amazing number of advertising jingles from the 1970s.
I'm too tired and vague to answer the part of this about what 5 people I'd like to know more about, probably because I'm nosy and don't want to limit it to 5 people. I think EVERYONE should answer these questions, and none of this namby-pamby "answer if you'd like" business either -- I think you should be forced to answer these questions so I can read what y'all write. After I take a nap, that is.

07 July 2008

Our Experience at Nationals

Annabeth's ceili team:

They didn't win their competition, BUT no one burst into tears, fell down, lost a shoe or wig during the performance, threw up, or otherwise fell apart during this very stressful event. So MrV and I considered that a "win". The team that got first place was breathtakingly good. Other teams were also very good. Some teams seemed worse than ours.

The upper 50 percent of the teams are given a recall, and their scores and places (first, second, third, etc.) are posted. The lower 50 percent of the competition are left with the illusion that they were the next best team. For example, 14 teams competed in the group that Annabeth's team was in; the top 7 know exactly how they scored. Teams that scored 8th through 14th place aren't posted, so every team can take heart and believe that really they were team number 8 (as opposed to getting last place, which would be icky). So. As far as I know, our team placed 8th, and we were only a point away from a recall. I love this scoring system.

The competition WAS nerve wracking -- up on top of a big stage in a big ballroom, with 3 judges analyzing every move, not to mention gobs of spectators.

The musicians were FANTASTIC. Gees, I felt like getting up on stage myself when I heard them play. Dean Crouch was on accordion. Someone said John Carey was in the audience (Thalia claimed she saw him walking around the hotel on Friday night, too).

The hotel itself -- Gaylord Opryland -- ummm. Well. I don't think we saw it at its best. The place was packed. Hundreds and hundreds of kids, most on a total adrenaline rush. Long lines for everything. It took an hour to check in. The swimming pools were crowded. Everything was crowded. And did I mention that all these swarms of people were totally wound up about the competition? Yowza, it was like nothing I've ever experienced before. I'm not sure it's something I ever want to experience again. Key learning: don't stay at the hotel that's hosting the event. Because even if it's huge and an amazing place, it's gonna be ... weird.

Anyway, overall it was a positive experience. And guess what we're doing today? Starting a dance workshop! I need to go sneak in a few hours of non-dance life before that starts ....

02 July 2008

What's It All About

At this time tomorrow we'll be headed to Nashville so Annabeth can dance this:

This isn't her team, but if you've seen one High Cauled Cap you've seen them all. Sort of. So, picture this with much shorter girls in poodle socks and stiffer dresses.

Must go finish sewing a pair of pants for me to wear, then clean the house and pack.

25 June 2008


Here at The Home of Catchy Blog Post Titles, I've been sewing. Well, mostly I've been amassing fabric, thinking about sewing, and all that fun part of sewing. But I have been able to produce 2 pairs of shorts for Thalia:

from New Look 6354. Although she wanted them longer than the shorts they show on the pattern. The picture on the front of the pattern envelope is deceiving, by the way -- the inseam of the shorts really isn't very long. Pattern companies tend to make their illustrations very long and lean, have you noticed? Anyway, I drew a new length -- "drew" because I was tracing the pattern onto Pattern Ease. Pattern Ease is handy for messing around with patterns. It's sold at JoAnn's, and goes on sale when the interfacing is on sale, at which time I buy several yards.

Anyway, I made them about knee length. Also, she wanted a drawstring in the waist. After much discussion and pondering-of-options we ended up using double fold bias tape. I sewed it up so it wouldn't unfold (during which the needle fell out of the sewing machine and I put the new one in backwards, which, of course, means it won't sew right, which was about the time I started reconsidering my new plan to make the kids' Irish Dance solo dresses myself since I think you maybe need enough basic skill to put the flipping needle in correctly if you're going to attempt one of those).

The fabric is the linen blend that is on sale at JoAnn's for weeks at a time every spring. I also got enough to make a couple of pairs of capris for myself, but these will be a different pattern which will feature things like a zipper and pockets, which translates into "will take more than an hour to slap together".

Not exciting, groundbreaking sewing, but sometimes we just plod along making practical items for our families, building our skills. And sometimes the skills being built are as mundane as "able to trace patterns quickly" or "always remember to tighten needle screw better so needle doesn't fall out while sewing". Go forth and do likewise.

20 June 2008

Attack of the Camera Gremlins

Yesterday I took some pictures of yarn stash to put on Ravelry. Imagine my surprise when I downloaded the photos and discovered that instead of just the 2 I had taken, 60 photos were on the camera card.

Including such gems as


plus the profound, not to be missed


I still have more stash photos to take. I'm sort of afraid of what I might find when I download the next batch, as last night the camera gremlins discovered the joy and excitement of nighttime flash photography.

By the way, I'm organizing stash because I've decided to start knitting up all the summer yarn I have. On the way home from the Indy feis we were listening to a book on tape in the car, the sun was shining brightly, I was exhausted, I was about ready to start clawing my eyes out in order to stay awake and also just for something to do, and I thought, "I really need to knit something." So, since I'm not sure what I want to knit, I'm going to cast on for everything, since I figure that will up my odds of actually liking one of the items.

18 June 2008

The Myth of the Long, Lazy Summer Day

Yes, the days are long, but they seem to be spent in a frenzy of Getting Stuff Done.

My main occupation this week seems to be ferrying kids back and forth to dance class. It's time for some intense dance practice as we're getting ready for Nationals. At this point we've amassed most of our accoutrements -- MAC lipliner in the appropriate shade, Boots Bronzer in the appropriate shade, the correct wig, the Hullachan shoes (oops, still need a dress bag; add that to the list). Now we come to the home practice, like Getting the Wig On So It Looks Halfway Decent and Applying Bronzer And Seeing If Child Gets a Rash From It. And, of course, the dance classes.

Thalia and I were in the grocery yesterday (sale on popsicles! add that to the list -- we still have freezer room!) and were talking to another adult. The adult asked Thalia how old she is. Thalia replied "12", and I thought to myself, "Why didn't she say 'Under 13?'" because that's the age she is according to the Irish Dance world. And I realized that I was losing my ability to have a normal conversation, since normal people answer age questions with simple numbers like "12". Of course, the adult in question would've understood what was meant by "Under 13" because that woman has a daughter who dances in Open Champion, which is the upper echelon of competition and translates into "we have spent several years and thousands of dollars on this".

So, not only have I lost my ability to have a normal conversation, but it doesn't matter since the people I usually talk to understand this weird "code" I'm using. Isn't this a sign of belonging to a cult?

We had this notion of doing some school over the summer. Thalia is working on Analytical Grammar and Life Of Fred Algebra. Sometimes she also works on Latin. AnnaBeth is working on First Language Lessons 3 and also RightStart C. She is less enthused about the summer school concept. It really doesn't take long, and if we have other obligations during the week (like, say, 10-15 hours of dance classes) we don't bother. We're also continuing our read alouds, which are drawn from Ambleside Online Year 2 plus our continuing slog through Every Little House Book Ever Written Including Prequels And Sequels. I was working on Henle Latin, but it doesn't get done if I'm always driving or messing with wigs, plus, honestly, I don't think there are direct translations into Latin for things like jig, reel, and hornpipe, AND DOES ANYTHING ELSE REALLY MATTER?.

Thalia is also learning how to clicker train a cat, specifically Demon Kitty. Thalia is good at working with animals -- it's really neat to watch her, as a matter of fact. The training has only been going on for a couple of days. We hope to eventually train Demon Kitty to be less demonic. I was reading Karen Pryor's book on clicker training in which she tells about teaching her dog to not attack her cat. And, of course, I was attracted to the notion of "not attack the cat", and decided to see if we could teach Demon Kitty to remain calm around Wimp Cat. Expect blog posts.

We have made it to the pool, and even taken a (non-dancing) friend along. And we've had neighborhood kids hanging around our house (nothing like a freezer full of popsicles to make your house attractive on a hot day). Kids have stayed out late chasing fireflies, and have run through sprinklers. Really, I think the kids are having a great summer. I'm the one who wandering in a daze. But I'm thinking that isn't season-specific behavior on my part.

16 June 2008

Indianapolis, I Love Your Feis

Saturday found us at the Indianapolis Convention Center participating in the Indianapolis Feis. It is a very well organized, fun event.

The Convention Center is big enough to hold several stages and still have plenty of room for everyone to spread out, so that's how the feis was arranged. Each stage had some relatively comfy chairs to sit in for viewing the competition, but each stage also had plenty of empty room around it for competitors and families to spread out a blanket and dump all of their flotsam, such as dress bags, shoe bags, wig cases, American Girl dolls dressed in Irish Dance costumes, lucky stuffed animals, etc. etc.

AND, better yet, all of Thalia's dances were on a single stage, and all of AnnaBeth's dances were on a single stage. No moving around! No having to check 2 signs per child to see how each stage was moving! AND, extra special bonus, Thalia and Annabeth's stages were side by side. So I parked our stuff in the area between the 2 stages, and was actually able to watch both girls dance all of their dances. This has never happened before. It was so cool.

Actually, AnnaBeth ended up switching stages. Her stage was still slogging through dance after dance after dance, and another nearby stage was totally empty -- all dances were done. So, in a fit of flexibility and organization, the Powers That Be took a few groups over to the empty stage and had them compete there. PRESTO -- everyone gets done more quickly! Which was probably good, because AnnaBeth was starting to fall apart -- it was a long day. Her wig was starting to hurt her head, she hadn't eaten enough (although there was a nice selection of food vendors, plus we had brought some snacks -- she was simply too nervous and excited to eat).

Thalia placed in all of her dances, which is to say that she is now qualified to dance at Novice level because she got a 1st, 2nd or 3rd in everything she danced plus there were 5 or more competitors in each dance. Here are the goals Thalia had for Irish Dance as of about 2 weeks ago: "I'd like to make it into Novice, and I'd like to place 1st in something." Okay, CHECK THAT OFF! Both have been accomplished. She's worked hard, doing extra conditioning to help her technique. It's paid off.

Plus, super-duper bonus, she was a gracious winner. This was particularly important since AnnaBeth got a 3rd, then a bunch of 4ths and 5ths. AnnaBeth had a bit of a meltdown over that; we have had several talks about how it's pretty good to get 4th place out of 2 dozen competitors, even if 4th place doesn't put you into Novice.


The competition started at 9am. First Feis rotated with Beginner 1, neither of which had a hard shoe category. Beginner 2 rotated with Novice and Open. We ended up being there until about 3pm. Next year take chairs to put in camping area, plus something to wear at lunch time.

We will be returning next year. It was a fantastic feis.

06 June 2008

The Exploding Cat

Lat night Demon Kitty was staring out the sliding glass door. I went over to pick her up, and she exploded into a ball of fur and claws and yowling. I screamed. I bled. I threw her in the basement.

This morning she was her usual loving, cute, cuddly self.

We think she was concentrating so much on something outside the door (probably our other cat) that she was totally taken by surprise when i touched her. And now I have scratches down the side of my face and also my arm. I also have blood splashed on the top I was wearing (the kids had a piano recital earlier in the evening, so I was sort of dressed up). I always end up with blood dripped on my favorite tops. Sigh.

I also have a prescription for anti-anxiety drugs for Demon Kitty. We're hoping they "take the edge off", as the vet says.

Anyway, that pretty much took my mind off of everything else. And there's a lot of "everything else" these days. The car was dying, but has revived after tender ministrations (and several one-car-family days). We seem to be unable to get the proper shoes in the proper size and the proper wig for Annabeth's Big Dance Competition coming up in just a few more weeks. It's raining constantly, meaning the water table has risen to the point that sump pumps that NEVER run are merrily pumping water, and those of us without sump pumps have plans to install one soon. Sometimes the storms feature bonus tornado warnings, which adds to the excitement. And can you believe how hot it is for the beginning of June? Yowza, it feels more like July or August.

27 May 2008

Long Weekend

Or, "what we did on Memorial Day vacation":

I went to the library to get books on cat psychology (still dealing with Demon Kitty, who must be separated from Wimpy Cat at all times). While there I happened to pick up Carolyn Jessop's book, Escape, about her life in the FLDS. Brought it home and read it obsessively. Finished it with a feeling of, "okay, THAT'S out of the way." I rarely read popular books, so it will probably be a long time before I read something else trendy.

We all went to see Prince Caspian. The theater was fairly empty, which was good since we had to whisper about what was in the book or not. Some of us also had to giggle quite a bit about the whole Caspian-Susan relationship (which is NOT in the book).

MrV and Thalia painted Thalia's room. MrV also put up another shelf in Annabeth's closet. And cleaned out the icky gutters way way up high.

Took Annabeth to a birthday party. In the meantime, bought one of those firepit thingies that let you have a fire on your porch. Picked up Annabeth from party, stayed up very late having a fire on porch. Ignored inserted literature stating that we would likely die if we ate food cooked on firepit thingy, and recklessly toasted marshmallows.

Endured an amazing amount of rain. When you walk through our yard the mud about sucks your feet off. A colony of ants decided our house would be drier and better to live in. We found the point where they're coming in on the inside of the house, but can't find it on the outside -- I imagine it's under the porch somewhere. In the meantime, I've closed up their inside doorway with Borax. Yes, they can dig through, but it will kill them over time.

I managed to get some sewing done, this time on a pair of capri pants. Each change of season brings a crisis in my wardrobe. Apparently sometime between last summer and now I went through my clothing and threw out all my ugliest capri pants; this left me with pretty much nothing to wear. Oops. I'm sure at the time I had visions of shopping for new. Hah. You'd think I'd know better by now -- I hate to shop. Anyway, the fly front zipper is in, and I need to make belt loops, attach the waistband, and hem them. Which I should be doing now, come to think of it ....

21 May 2008

Bronze Award Project

Thalia decided to earn her Bronze Award while in Junior Girl Scouts this year. The Bronze Award is the highest award given to a Junior Scout.

To earn it she needed to earn a Sign, a leadership award, and 2 badges related to her project. She then needed to spend 15 hours on a project that would benefit the community.

Thalia decided to earn the Sign of the Star, mostly because it was fairly easy to earn solo (the Bronze Award and Signs are often earned as a troop).

She had earned the Junior Aid award back in Ohio when she helped run a Brownie meeting.

The two badges she earned were Pet Care, and Yarn and Fabric Arts.

Then she was ready to start her project -- making blankets for cats in shelters. She would've preferred to actually work directly with the animals, but is too young to do so. I thought this was sort of creative in that she came up with a way to do something for the animals in spite of her youth.

She ended up making fleece blankets -- the kind that take 2 layers of fleece with fringes tied together. The shelter specified that they would like the blankets to be 14 inches square. Frankly, this was the toughest part of the entire project -- getting the specifications for the blankets. During this part of the project Thalia learned that nonprofit organizations are often understaffed and may not return phone calls until you call them several times.

We had the fleece with multi-colored cats on it already (I had bought it when Thalia was a toddler, thinking I would make a jacket for her). We waited for a sale at JoAnn's to get some solids for $2.99 per yard, and also found some large pieces for cheap in the remnant bin. We're all about the cheap materials here.

She ended up making 14 blankets. Our cats tested them out, and thought they were great. For the record, after we finally got the cats off of them she washed the blankets before actually taking them to the shelter.

At the end of the year her troop had a candle ceremony for the 3 girls who had earned their Bronze Award. And the leader mentioned it, then, in the Court of Awards that was held jointly with the Brownies and Cadettes -- the leader thinks Girl Scouts needs to make more of a fuss about the Bronze, Silver, and Gold Awards. But, hey, if we started counting the ways Girl Scouts could be better we'd be here all day, right? So let's be happy we had a nice troop in a decent Council.

Thalia has now officially bridged to Cadettes, so we're poised to start on the Silver Award. Yeehaw. Or maybe "aaack" would be more appropriate. I feel like I just figured out how to "do" Juniors, and now it all changes.

20 May 2008

Busy Times

We've had house guests. So that's part of the reason for the break in blogging.

Also, we got a new cat a few weeks ago. After spending several weeks wrapping us around her little paw, when she was sure of our adoration, she revealed her true identity of Demon Kitty. She attacked our other cat. Viciously. So, much time lately has been spent toting cats to the vet. Older cat now gets ointment in his eye and antibiotics. Demon Kitty has been checked out for any physical problems -- there are none, by the way, so that means she has no excuse for her behavior.

05 May 2008

In Which I Find Something Worthwhile About Prima Latina

I have often moaned and complained about Latina Christiana and Prima Latina, all volumes of which we tossed out in favor of other Latin programs that didn't cause such weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.


Thalia's choir was singing in a concert. And it was pretty cool when AnnaBeth and I recognized the song:

Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus
Dominus Deus Sabbaoth.
Pleni sunt caeli et terra gloria Tua.
Hosanna in excelsis.
Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini.
Hosanna in excelsis.

We sort of giggled and chanted along quietly.

Afterwards I said something to Thalia about how handy it was that she already knew the words to that one.

"Yeah, and we'd even learned the correct pronunciation.' It was pretty apparent from the tone of her voice that this did NOT mean that she had any desire whatsoever to touch those books again. Additionally, she's into classical pronunciation now, thank you very much.

But, hey, at least all those weeks of Prima Latina weren't a total waste.

02 May 2008


So far today I've gotten up early, had some Green Magma to drink, then scrubbed the kitchen floor while listening to classical music.

After that I ate pecan shortbread chocolate chunk cookies, fried bacon, ate the bacon, fried bread in the bacon grease, then ate that, all while mindlessly reading Internet forums.

Which way will the day go -- back on track for the healthy, productive lifestyle? Or diving further into the depths of junk food and drivel?

30 April 2008

Ruffles, and Red, White and Blue

AnnaBeth's choir director asked that they wear red, white and blue to their next performance. Well, okay. Except that the only red clothing she has is Christmas related, and it's (finally) too warm for that sort of thing. And the only blue she has is denim, which really isn't so much "blue" as it is "denim".

So we decided to make a new skirt. And I figured that AnnaBeth wanted something a little flouncier than an A-line or simple gathered skirt. After much consultation she decided she liked Ottobre 3/2006 #35, which is an extravaganza of ruffles. She thought perhaps we should make some ruffles blue and some red, but I thought it might be nice to find some printed fabric.

A trip to JoAnn's yielded patriotic Hello Kitty (who knew?), as well as some white fabric with stars sprinkled across it.

This is what happens when you cross a need for red, white, and blue with a need for lots of frills:

I had purchased some red ribbon to sew on some of the outer, blue ruffles, but AnnaBeth decided against that. I think she was right, since that would've added too much weight to those ruffles.

This really weighs a ton -- it's got 2 layers. The under skirt is supposed to be white batiste with 2 frills on the bottom. I used white for the upper part, but the starry fabric for the frills. I hemmed the frills with my serger set for a narrow rolled hem, one using red thread and the other using blue. It came out looking sort of like ribbons:

That white fabric was stuffed in a drawer with a price tag of 47 cents per yard. I think it originally belonged to my mother-in-law's mother, who had purchased it way back when. You know, back before we called it "stash" and instead called it "sort of odd hoarding behavior, possibly brought on by surviving the Great Depression".

I'd thought I was being clever by ignoring Ottobre's directions about the size of the elastic in the waist -- I thought they wanted it way too small. But, no, they were right -- the skirt is so heavy that it drags right down onto her hips. But it seems to work in spite of my larger elastic.

I finished it this morning. She's worn in non-stop today. I hope it lasts until her performance, and doesn't end up mud caked or ripped by then.

28 April 2008

"Stitch It Together" Try-It for Brownies

Honestly, this would've been an easier Try-It for us to do at home, but that can't be said for everyone in AnnaBeth's Brownie troop. So, it ended up as a troop project. The girls made doll quilts.

We were instructed to get fabric and cut out 6 squares of 8" by 8", and a backing of 16" by 24" (yes, quick math show that this isn't really correct, as you have seam allowances, but I guess the woman in charge decided it was the easiest way to explain it to everyone, or maybe she didn't feel like doing the math herself -- I never know in these situations). We also purchased some buttons.

Those who were unable to purchase their own fabric had some provided for them.

We happened into a sale at JoAnn's on quilting fabric and buttons.

(Picture is yellow because it was taken on the dining room table in winter.)

At the meetings the girls sewed on the buttons on one square (task #2, Button Collage) and embroidered designs on another square or 2 (task #3, Embroidery). Did I mention that there are about 20 girls in our troop? So, that's 20 kids in 1st through 3rd grade who are trying to figure out how to sew on buttons and how to embroider (and we didn't have hoops, which added to the challenge). And, yeah, we have heavy parental involvement, but an amazing number of the parents have little idea how to sew on a button or how to embroider. It was ... intense. The troop provided the needles, thrjead, scissors, and embroidery floss (I think the floss was donated by someone who had gobs of DMC that the labels had fallen off of; actually, AnnaBeth took some of our from home so she knew she had a color she liked).

After decorating some of the squares with buttons and embroidery, the girls brought all 6 squares to the sewing machines. What sewing machines? Why, the ones lugged in by some of the moms. I took my old Viking, which is absolutely awesome for this task since it has a "low gear" in which you CANNOT sew quickly no matter how much you stomp on the pedal (another plus is its nice carrying case, but a minus is that it weighs about as much as my car). Working closely with the sewing machine mavens, each girl sewed together at least some of her squares. Well, if she wanted to. If she was really timid, she was welcome to just watch while being talked through what was going on. At least, the kids who were with me got talked through it -- my experience teaching Thalia and AnnaBeth to sew merged with my years of library reference work teaching university freshmen how to use the online card catalog, and I was in the ZONE about explaining what we were doing and why. (task #6, Patch It All Together) The seams were ironed flat by the adults; someone had brought in an iron, and a little ironing station was set up.

The troop provided batting. The completed 6 squares were laid on top of the batting and the backing, and sewn together (sometimes by Brownies, sometimes not) leaving a gap for turning. All quilts were turned, and the girls were given needles and thread to whip the gap closed (task #5, Sew What?)

Okay, admittedly some of these tasks aren't spot on how they're written in the Try-It book, but we took at least 3 meetings to do this, and the kids really did work quite a bit on stitching skills.

A finished product.

Thalia thought it was such a cool concept that she got some fabric to make one, too.

23 April 2008

And One Finished for Me

Long ago I became interested in A Thomas Jefferson Education by Oliver Van DeMille. I found the online discussion of the book tantalizing. A new look at homeschooling! Woohoo! It sounded like it was changing lives.

But, of course, I was too cheap to actually purchase a copy of the book. I found out what I could about the contents and the author, and had to be satisfied with that.

A few weeks ago I happened to look up Thomas Jefferson Education in our library's catalog. Hey, they had it! I placed a hold, and eagerly awaited its arrival.

And last week it finally came! And I got to read it! And it was ... really mediocre. Sigh. All my hopes for revolutionary thought were dashed. It was nothing new, packaged in a book that seemed like a cross between an extremely long magazine article, and a brochure for George Wythe College, which is the non-accredited school the author runs.

So. Set a good example for your kids by studying and learning new things. Classics are good. not that he ever defines what he means by classics. Mentors are good. Apparently we should all strive to become statesmen, although I don't recall that he ever explained what that meant, either. George Wythe College is (according to DeMille) a sparkling example of higher education.

I did get a kick out of this quote from page 125: "We are inundated with information, but most of it does us very little good." Umm, yep, that pretty much sums up my thoughts on this book.

22 April 2008

Another One Bites the Dust

I will never again teach First Language Lessons.

It's done. Finished. History.

Two kids worth of use, and it's looking rather battered. The protective coating is peeling right off of the cover. It has that look that a book gets when it's pulled off and replaced on a shelf a couple hundred times.

I'll admit that it's been incredibly boring at times. For some reason, it didn't seem quite so bad the second time through, though. Perhaps that's because I knew what to expect. Perhaps it's because I didn't have a toddler demanding my attention, leaving me feeling frazzled about getting through all the lessons in the shortest time possible.

We added Montessori grammar games. We made the chants into hand clap games and dances. We skipped lessons, particularly at the beginning. We sang the poems for which we knew a tune (All Things Beautiful, for example).

Overall, I've decided that I like slightly scripted lessons. They're a nice change of pace. When I'm feeling crummy I can follow the script, but when I'm perky I can go off in my own direction.

For the record, I think the book's cover picture is weird. I'll not be missing that at all.

16 April 2008

Homeschool Snapshot


Thalia decided she needed to work on fractions, percents, and decimals before moving into a pre-Algebra program. We got the Key to. ... series for her to work on, and she's been going through the books on her own. She likes the incremental pace; I think she also gets a kick out of how easy some of it is. I don't think she's learning anything new, but she's getting plenty of practice on concepts. RightStart was great on explanations, and then gave just a few interesting problems to work on -- Thalia apparently needed gobs of practice problems, which she's getting now.

In the meantime, I've been looking over pre-Algebra programs, and have decided that some of the main features of them are working on fractions, decimals, and percents, and making sure those are solid before moving on to Algebra. I think we'll plunge into Algebra once she's done with these books.

AnnaBeth continues in RightStart C. We are at about lesson 95. She's doing well with memorizing multiplication tables. Not that RightStart calls it that -- at this point she's just learning to skip count really, really quickly, according to the program. She's working on 4 digit subtraction, which seems to be going smoothly.


Thalia continues with Latin for Children, which she adores. She eagerly awaits Greek for Children, convinced that the people at Classical Academic Press will put together the Best Program Ever since they have the magic touch in language programs.

AnnaBeth was doing Prima Latina, but ... oh, lordy, those Memoria Press language programs just kill me. I dread getting out the book. And AnnaBeth wasn't exactly pushing for it. At first she was so eager to learn Latin that she insisted, and I just sort of went along with her enthusiasm. But bit by bit that enthusiasm eroded with the onslaught of B.O.R.I.N.G. lessons. Latin seems to be on hold for this child for a few more weeks.

Foreign Language

Thalia also continues in Rosetta Stone Spanish. She's bored with it. I've been looking for something else to mix it with, but so far haven't found anything that seems appropriate. What she'd really like if Spanish for Children by Classical Academic Press, since she considers them the source of all Perfect Language Programs. Maybe we'll take a look at it when it's published.

AnnaBeth is taking another try at French. A couple of years ago we tried The Easy French. Since she didn't yet know how to read we simply listened to the tapes. Not much stuck, frankly. We just started the program again, this time with reading and writing. AnnaBeth is excited about this. I'll be interested to see how well we learn to read French with the little Spalding-type phonogram cards they provide.

Reading and Writing

We just got our copy of Lightning Literature 7 last week, and Thalia immediately started in. I got a copy of the Harold Bloom's book Stories and Poems for Extremely Intelligent Children from the library so she could read Riki Tiki Tavi. She keeps taking the book and wandering off with it, reading other things. Sheesh, that child loves to read. She also likes Lightning Lit, it seems. I think she likes having a mental checklist of what all needs to be covered, and being able to see how she's progressing; having a workbook provides that.

Analytical Grammar is on order. Right now she's not doing any other grammar program; way back when we dumped Rod and Staff 5th grade and never replaced it with anything. It's time to focus on grammar again. Simply doing dictation and looking up rules as needed really didn't seem to help with usage rules, either. I think Analytical Grammar gets into some usage. I hope so. We'll see.

In the meantime, AnnaBeth is 4 lessons away from completing First Language Lessons. She's very excited. We already have a copy of the Level 3 book and workbook ready to start next week. And she's very excited about that, too. Yes, both my kids are excited that their new programs contain workbooks.

AnnaBeth also is working on cursive in the Handwriting Without Tears workbook, which she really enjoys. She does this pretty much on her own. Every so often I'm supposed to come up with a list of words for her to write in cursive. That's pretty much the extent of my involvement.

No one works on spelling on a regular basis.

We are in the final week of Ambleside Year 1, which we've been using for read alouds. We continue to slog through all of the LIttle House books. We are currently in The Long Winter, with its continuous blizzards and continuous discussion of whether or not the train can make it through the Tracy Cut. Why did these people ever move from The Big Woods? Life was good back in The Big Woods; they should've stayed there.


Science is a motley assortment of classes at the Science Center, the zoo, and Girl Scout badge work. We're trying to come up with something more systematic for next year for Thalia. She'll be too old for Science Center classes, and the Cadette Interest Projects aren't so science-y (insert snide comment here about how Girl Scouts comes up with what to put in their books -- use your imagination). So. Middle School science -- the bane of so many homeschoolers. Umm. Well. Ahem. Moving on.


Let's just call our history program "interest led". "Erratic" would also be a good word to use. Thalia is interested in Greeks and Vikings. AnnaBeth is interested in Egyptians. So sometimes we read about these things, or listen to audio books, or watch programs about them. And sometimes we don't. Okay, moving on.

Oh! Wait! Those Ambleside readings have a bunch of history! Okay, then, we've been doing history of Britain, as well as some Vikings and some early Christian church.

Other Stuff

Piano. We have an excellent piano teacher. The kids are learning so much from her. Heck, I am learning so much from her.

Phys Ed. Last week feature workshops with John Carey. Who'd've thought we'd be doing workshops with a World Champion who starred in Lord of the Dance. Irish Dance is so weird. AnnaBeth also continues to work her way through the YMCA swimming program.

Hmm, I think that's what we do for homeschool these days. It's hard to say -- the homeschool stuff is so embedded in life that you can't really say "okay this is school" and "this over here is just living our lives". But these are the things I keep track of in our notebooks in order to comply with Missouri homeschool law.

07 April 2008

The Little Sock That Nobody Loved

In February I cast on a sock for MrV, using KnitPicks Shine in Cocoa and Yarn Harlot's Earl Grey Pattern. At first it was fun -- the yarn is a wonderful chocolate brown, the pattern is easy, the knitting just flowed along.

Then March came, Gloomy, wet, cold March. Life revolved around delivering Girl Scout cookies (in snow, rain, and cold) and schlepping kids to dance classes and performances (in rain and cold). We had to put one of our cats down. I got sick. March tried to suck away my will to live. It succeeded in sucking away my will to knit.

But April eventually arrived, and I made it to the toe of the sock:

Before I grafted the toe I had MrV try it on.

Question 1: "What am I going to wear these with?" Uh, I thought the brown would go with those brown pants you really like. But, honestly, now that it's knit up I don't much like how it looks with the pant fabric.

Question 2: "They seem sort of short in the cuff. Can you make this part longer?" Now, these socks were knit from the cuff down. I have several thoughts swimming through my head at this point. One is that I think knitting socks from the cuff down is stupid, I'm not sure why I did it, and the fact that MrV wants me to add to the cuff proves that every knitter who gets sucked into this method is an idiot. But, let's face it, everyone knows that I would have no problems with the concept of cutting off the ribbing of the cuff, putting the stitches on needles, and knitting up to make the cuff longer. Then again, I really don't like this sock, loaded as it is with memories of gloomy, cold, wet March. And, finally, there isn't enough yarn to make this cut-and-knit-the-other-way worthwhile. So I answer, "No." I tell him they are knit from the cuff down, and imply that is the fault of the universal obsession with knitting socks from the cuff down that is the problem.

Question 3: "Are you mad that I don't like them?" No, I'm grateful I found out before I knit the second sock. If I'd knit both sock and then watched them languish, then I'd be upset. Particularly because I don't especially like this sock, either.

So, what to do with the rest of the yarn? What to cast on next, to wipe away the bad taste of this sock? Alas, I have no time to play around with yarn. I'm schlepping kids to special dance workshops taught by Mr. Famous Dancer every. single. day. And doing the laundry associated with all of this dancing.

But today is a bright and sunny day, the dance workshop will be over in a few more days, and I have a box of bamboo yarn to play with. Life moves on, better than before. It just doesn't move on wearing this sock, which shall be frogged.

02 April 2008

Theater Badge

I ended up being in charge of the Theater Badge for Thalia's Junior Girl Scout troop this spring.

I looked into taking the troop on a field trip to a theater department in a high school or at the YMCA in west county, but the trips didn't really sound all that exciting for the amount of time, trouble, and money to get the kids to the place. Also, Thalia pointed out that this crowd really likes to do crafts, and thought we should make sure we had a chance to make masks (option 1 in the badge book).

So we ended up doing the badge at our usual meeting site, which meant that I actually had to be in charge of everything. Me, leading theater exercises? Actually, it turned out fine -- this is a great group of girls.

We used the theater exercises in the badge book -- Mirror Mimic, Character Charades, Belt it Out, and How You Say It (I modified this to be a Sentence Game). I mixed in some other theater games like Zip Zap Zop and Human Orchestra. I got a lot of ideas from the book On Stage: Theatre Games and Activities for Kids.

Next up we worked on the Mix It Up, Make It Up activity of the badge. This is a costuming activity. I had brought a couple of big bags of cloth -- sheets, capes, old curtains, fabric remnants -- as well as belts, a huge bag of safety pins, and other costume-y odds and ends. I announced that we were going to play Project Runway -- working in pairs, they were to design a costume for a fairy tale, then have one person of the pair walk it down the "runway" while the other described what the character was. I assigned the pairs (on advice from Thalia), and the girls got to work. There was much giggling, and some very creative outfits were produced. The teams switched roles, then, for another go at the runway.

Finally, the moment we had all been waiting for -- I passed out the paper plates and announced that we were making masks. Aside from the usual markers, glue sticks, construction paper, tape and yarn, I had raided our home craft supplies to come up with feathers, crepe paper streamers, sequins, pipe cleaners, and random shapes cut from foam sheets (I really don't know why we own some of this stuff, which represents several years of accumulation).

The girls cut holes in the masks for their eyes, I tied yarn on the sides so they could tie the masks onto their heads, and they all started creating.

These are just the ones from Thalia and AnnaBeth (who had tagged along). The group had an amazing assortment -- they showed fantastic creativity. We had a bird, a Yeti, a Greek mask representing Dionysius. Some girls worked the entire time on one mask; others finished quickly, and I suggested they make another.

Once all of the masks were finished we sat in a circle and they introduced their masks -- they put them on, and acted like the character of the mask.

Overall I thought it was a pretty successful meeting.

17 March 2008

Current Events at Our House

This is how it goes:

Dance performance
Dance performance
Ceili class
Dance class
Ceili class
(day off)
Dance performance
Dance performance
Dance performance
Dance performance
Dance performance

We are currently sitting around watching television like total slugs, having skipped the performance we could be at right this very minute. And we're also skipping the one after that. Ssshhhh, don't tell. It's starting to feel like we're in a cult -- total lack of sleep coupled with doing the same thing over and over and over again.

Still to come:

Dance performance
Ceili class
Dance class
Ceili class

Then I think something else happens, like, oh, that's right, Easter. That holiday for which we have no shoes or clothing or Easter-basket-stuff.

03 March 2008

Yes, We're Still Here

Most of the Girl Scout cookies have been delivered. For the record, the kids sold pretty much every single box themselves -- we don't do the "parents take sales sheet to work and post it" thing. The kids went door to door to door. The only exceptions were the person who cuts MrV's hair (2 boxes) and a couple of people at church who had the form passed to them (8 boxes).

So we've been schlepping these cookies door to door to door. I think we have less than 10 houses to go now.

Right now I'm passing the time until the vet's office opens. The cat is sick. She didn't eat yesterday, which was worrisome, but, okay, sometimes cats do that. By 6am today, though, she seemed very, very weak. I'm mostly trying to distract myself for another 45 minutes or so until the vet's office opens; every so often I go look to see if she's still breathing.

Okay, I just checked, and she's still alive. So, I cried a little, and tried to think of something else I can do to pass the time.

Gotta go.

25 February 2008

Welcome to My Nightmare

320 boxes of Girl Scout cookies. To be delivered to about 150 different houses.

21 February 2008

Oh the Weather Outside Is Frightful

But the cables are so delightful:

Sleet and freezing rain, the local schools are closing, our Girls Scout meeting has been cancelled (we still have to pick up over 300 boxes of cookies for delivery, but that's a problem for another day).

We have already brought firewood into the (attached) garage, since all this time reading Little House has taught us something.

And I am prepared to continue my cable obsession, which started with Twist.

This time I'm making a headband for one of the kids, using a pattern she selected from Elsebeth Lavold's Viking Patterns for Knitting. The white yarn is a provisional cast on; when I'm done I'll graft the 2 ends together to make a ring. Then I'll start another headband for the other child, using a different pattern.

This is the first time I've used this book, which I've had for 3 or 4 years. I was intimidated by the charts -- Lavold writes them a bit differently than the cable charts I'm used to. This time, though, I simply plunged in, got it wrong, ripped it out, tried again using the photograph as reference, ripped it out another time or 2, and now am happily working away. There's an explanation of how to use the charts in the book, of course, but that would've taken 5 minutes to read; I much prefer my helter-skelter method of beginning the project immediately, then taking an hour or so to fiddle with it since I was unprepared.

I rarely make gauge swatches, as you could probably guess.

Okay, I made and washed and blocked a gauge swatch for Twist, but my main thought upon doing it was " Gees, I'm really losing my edge," since it's so much more exciting to spend hours and hours making a sweater with only the vaguest idea of whether you're making it the right size. Making the swatch first just seemed so ... safe. When Twist turned out great it wasn't a surprise -- it was a great pattern made in the proper size, ho hum, yawn, of course it looks nice.

Favorite Twist anecdote: I knit on Twist quite a bit a dance class while talking to other moms. And last night I was at dance class knitting away on this headband, and got the question, "Whatever happened to that sweater you were knitting -- did you finish it?" "I'm wearing it now." Jaws drop, gasps. "THAT'S IT?" Then 10 minutes later someone else walks in, says, "Oh, what are you making now? Did you finish that sweater?" etc., etc. I assume they weren't expecting the final product to look so ... I don't know ... wearable.

18 February 2008

Me plus Twist equals Love

Finished product:

I love this sweater. I loved knitting it. I love wearing it. I'm wearing it now.

(Not my favorite photo, though, but the one Blogger would accept. Blogger and I have a very tenuous relationship, you know. But you'd think I could've gotten a better photo considering that I wore the sweater all day Sunday and all day Monday.)

Twist by Bonne Marie Burns, knit out of Cascade Superwash in offwhite, on sizes 5 and 6 needles. I cast on a couple of extra stitches in the back, an extra stitch on each side, and 2 more stitches on each sleeve to make up for the fact that my gauge was a bit off. And, no, I didn't worry about what happened when I bound those stitches back off at the top of the pieces -- I figured that the knitted fabric could be eased to fit (that's the seamstress in me -- you can cut out fabric a bit wonky and still sew it together okay).

I loved this pattern so much that it didn't bother me that I had to knit the left front nearly 3 times before I got the cables right. Well, it didn't bother me much.

And I was pleased to have it done on Saturday night, because

Knit Picks clearanced a bunch of yarn out of their shop right onto my doorstep Saturday afternoon.

The hat in the top photo is already done; socks have been cast on in the cocoa brown Essential ... oooh, I'm feeling productive these days! Except not so productive in the bathroom-cleaning department, sigh....


"What did you do this weekend?"

Oh, I'm so glad you asked.

Saturday we got up early, loaded dance paraphernalia into the car, and headed to the Ballpark Hilton for a day of feising at the Irish Arts Feis. MrV dropped us off at the door, and then drove off to find parking (since the valet parking was not only expensive, but also full; he eventually found a spot on the street a few blocks away; at least it wasn't as bad as last year when there were mounds of snow all over and virtually no parking anyway since the feis was on the same weekend as the Mardi Gras parade -- did you know the St. Louis Mardi Gras parade is the 2nd largest in the US? So, anyway, immediate grumpiness about the feis before we've even begun, due to crummy parking situation).

We went on in and I purchased a wristband, since this feis requires ALL non-dancers to pay $10 to watch the dancers. The dancers, of course, have paid $8 per dance to compete. The rest of us -- family, friends, curious people wandering by who wonder what an Irish dance competition looks like -- must each pay $10. Even the little 3 month old baby needs to pay for a wristband. Other feisanna in St. Louis don't do this -- you pay a flat fee online (maybe $10-$15 per family) for which you can bring every relative you have plus your entire neighborhood. So, second instance of grumpiness, and we haven't even gotten to our stages.

We had scoped out the hotel the night before. The place is rather choppy, and currently worse due to some massive construction project. The feis volunteers had some confusing signs up as to where the various stages were, although that wasn't really their fault. It was impossible to NOT be confusing under the circumstances. And they tried to amend signs as they observed people wandering off in the wrong directions. Overall, I was glad I knew where to deposit the kids' dance bags.

Kid1 danced on stages 1 and 2, which were located in the same ballroom. Yay for not having to switch rooms. But the signs on the stages listing which dance competed when were rather tiny and poorly lit. Kid1 had some moments of panic when she realized she couldn't read them since she's nearsighted.

Kid2 was on stages 5 and 6 -- again, both in the same ballroom. Except you can't see the signs for who's "up" on stage 5 when you're at stage 6, and vice versa, which was a little annoying (I live in fear of totally missing a dance because we weren't paying attention).

Stages 1 and 2 started promptly at 8:30 with the singing of national anthems. They moved on to figure dances. Then ... stopped. Because all the figure dances have to be done on all stages before they can start the solo dances. So they then sat looking at an empty stage for about an hour. In the meantime, stages 5 and 6 sat empty for 20 to 30 minutes ... perhaps we were waiting for figure dancers on other stages to come and compete on ours? Who knows. You'd think they'd figure out who had to be where when, and tweak the schedule accordingly. Another grumpiness factor -- couldn't they be a bit more organized?

The figure dances on our stage were interesting. Most of the groups continued dancing long after the musician stopped (note: we had a single accordion player who had to play non-stop for hours, and yes, he did mess up more than once, including one time where he totally pooped out in the middle of a competition -- grumpiness about the musician situation is registered). The judge eventually told one group, "You need to stop dancing after xx bars." I heard the girls whispering, asking why their instructor didn't explain how long to dance.

Eventually, though, the solo competitions started. This was the first feis in which we competed at Beginner 2 level. I missed all of Kid1's dances. She reported that her worst dance was Treble Reel, as she didn't start correctly.

Kid2 seemed to do fine, although she was competing against a boatload of other girls. The way these competitions work at this level: everyone competing in a particular dance makes a long line across the back of the stage (sometimes it can be 2 lines), then the kids come out 2 at a time (other feisaenna sometimes have them dance 3 at a time) and dance their dance, they return to place, the next 2 are already poised to start immediately (as in on the very next beat of the music), and so on down the line. Then everyone bows and walks off. So if you have a large group to get through, it can take quite a while per dance. And it did. Kid1 was done long before Kid2, so she and MrV came into our ballroom to watch.

By the way, the stage manager on stage 6 (where Kid2 danced most of her dances) was excellent. He kept all these little girls organized, made sure kids from the same school didn't dance at the same time (each school has different choreography for each dance, so it's better to mix up the schools so you don't have 2 dancers doing the exact same thing at the same time). He was truly a bright spot in the day.

They arrive in plenty of time to see Kid2's Treble Reel. She had never competed it this dance before, and seemed tentative.

Soon we were finished with all the dances. The girls changed their clothing, MrV gave his wristband to someone else who wanted to see the feis (he had never actually attached it to his wrist, and this was his way of protesting the $10 admission), we took the dresses back to the car (parked several blocks away) and we went to buy a new wig, chat with some people from our school, then to look for the scores. Both kids placed 3rd in Treble Jig! Woohoo! The rest of their scores were 4th or lower, but the 3rd place meant that they each got a medal. But, oh, whoops, the hornpipe scores weren't up yet. Let's wait a few minutes ... a few more minutes ... by the way, where do you want to have lunch, since we barely ate breakfast and it's about noon ... more waiting ... ask the volunteer in charge of posting scores if he knows what may be going on ... he's quite testy, and says the judges sometimes don't get the scores to the stage runners promptly (hmmm, why is the burden on the judge? could it possibly be that the system for getting the scores into the hands of the stage runner could use some tweaking to help it flow more smoothly?) ... waiting ... waiting .... FINALLY! Okay, after an hour, the scores appear and we can head home. Another item of grumpiness -- how long it took for some of the scores to appear.

We will never attend this feis again. Don't like the venue (it's nice as a hotel, but not for a feis), don't think it's very organized, really really really don't like the wristband -- we shouldn't have to pay $10 a piece for something that seems slopped together.

The rest of the day: finish Twist, which consisted of knitting 4 more rows on the collar, steam blocking the collar and button bands, then sewing on the buttons (pictures to follow eventually). In the meantime, MrV took Kid1 to pick up her glasses.

Overall, a productive, if not entirely happy, non-grumpy day.